NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Deputy House Speaker Dion Smith yesterday condemned the recent actions of current Deputy Speaker Don Saunders, insisting he did not follow the rules when he had an officer escort opposition leader Philip Brave Davis out of the Lower Chamber earlier this month.
On May 5, a shouting match between Saunders and Davis resulted in Davis being escorted out of Parliament during the evening session.
Davis was defending Saunders’ treatment of Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin, who was seeking to raise a point of order but was asked to stand down.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Smith said: “He (Saunders) was out of order.
“…I feel the suspension was wrong and I feel as though the suspension didn’t allow the proper procedure according to the rules of the House of Assembly.”
He noted that when it comes to matters in Parliament, naming and suspending parliamentarians should be saved for when something is considered “gross misconduct” or is “the worst of the worst”.
He insisted he did not see that level of conduct from Davis or Hanna-Martin, adding that “at a time like this, when the opposition is already small, we must be mindful as to how we silence the opposition”.
“Even though the government would normally have their way, the opposition should still have their say,” Smith said.
“What I saw was the deputy speaker overprotecting the government and treating the opposition in a condescending way, especially the way he tried to deal with Glenys Hanna-Martin.”
He added that while he knows the Englerston MP “don’t need much defending”, he supported Davis’ actions.
Smith added that there is a process to naming and suspending members in Parliament and that was not followed because no one brought a motion.
He insisted Saunders lacked the authority to order the opposition escorted from the chambers.
During yesterday’s sitting of Parliament, Davis claimed his privilege was breached, insisting that Saunders did not follow the rules and claiming he was never named nor suspended in the proper fashion.
However, House Speaker Halson Moultrie ruled that Davis was both named and suspended for the afternoon session on May 5.
The speaker said Davis had made a prima facie case on speaking on a matter of privilege and allowed him to make a case for 15 minutes.
Southern Shores MP Frankie Campbell moved for the matter to be sent to the Committee on Privilege.
There were no objections to the move.
Moultrie noted that he had the Hansard and broadcast footage of the proceedings, which will be sent to the committee for review.