Speaker Wars: Opposition walk out after privilege breach denied

Speaker Wars: Opposition walk out after privilege breach denied
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis and  Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper walked out of yesterday’s Parliament sitting.

Cooper calls Moultrie “pedantic and condescending bully”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis and  Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper walked out of yesterday’s Parliament sitting, after the speaker of the house denied Cooper’s application on a breach of privilege.

In a notice on Monday, Cooper called for the withdrawal of comments made by Golden Gates MP Michael Foulkes who asserted during his contribution that the government had previously borrowed from the IMF and Cooper’s comments to the contrary were “untrue, wrong and factually incorrect”.

The Minnis administration has applied to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $252 million to support its ongoing COVID-19 response and budgetary operations.

Foulkes pointed to an article in The Tribune last month, where former Minister of State for Finance James Smith alluded to IMF financing The Bahamas received in late 2009.

However, Cooper refuted this assertion, insisting that the 2009 financing was a part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) program which allowed all member countries to convert their allocations to currency reserves in the wake of the global financial meltdown at the time.

He furthered that there were no repayment terms for The Bahamas and the money was not borrowed for fiscal spending.

“If the member for Golden Gates is unable to provide a previous resolution and loan agreement with the IMF to this House, then I insist he withdraw his comments about me, or that it be appropriately expunged,” the notice read.

“This is very serious business we are talking about in the life of our country in this debate. It requires a great deal of study and focus.

“If we are not going to apply that to debates in this House, then we are doing a disservice to the Bahamian people.”

House Speaker Halson Moultrie read his ruling on the matter at the start of the evening sitting.

Moultrie denied the application, indicating that it will not be referred to the Committee of Privilege given that he had found it “fatally flawed”.

He noted that the application failed to cite or identify the rules that were breached; made demands and request, as opposed to seeking leave of the chair; and failed to establish a “prima facie case” in that the evidence produced did not specifically justify a decision in the Cooper’s favor.

“Based on the records of the officials Hansard, the Tribune report…and the evidence gleaned from the IMF’s website…the chair did not find the remarks for the member for Golden Gates to be false or misleading in a material respect,” Halson ruled.

He added that the matter lacks the urgency that warrants a disruption of the budget debate.

Following Moultrie’s ruling, Davis attempted to comment on the issue by standing.

However, Moultrie told him he would not be recognized and advised him to resume his seat. He then ordered the Hansard to shut off Davis’ microphone and expunge any statement made of Davis.

The chair has made his ruling on the application and that is the end of it.

Cooper also stood to address the issue but Moultrie also urged him to resume his seat – meanwhile recognizing the St Barnabas MP to begin his contribution.

The Exumas and Ragged Island MP refused, insisting “I must be heard”.

Shortly after, Both Cooper and Davis gathered their items and walked out of the chambers.

In a statement on the series of events, Cooper claimed he met with Moultrie and Davis over the issue and was promised that he would have an opportunity to speak.

“Instead we were ambushed by a ruling rejecting the application without hearing it and without disclosing the content of the application to the House,” he said.

“…I respect the position of Speaker of the House, but the man who holds it today has again disrespected his own office.

“Not only does he act like a pedantic and condescending bully, but he is bad for our democracy and is the worst speaker of the House since Majority Rule.

“The great men and women who have held the position prior must be cringing in shame.”