Speaker Moultrie’s disgraceful diatribe in the House

When Great Britain decided to divest itself of virtually all of its former colonies in the late 1950s, totally dismantling a colonial Super Power that could rightly boast at one time that the “sun never sets of the British Empire,” The Bahamas was not among the British colonies that wanted to become independent. That’s primarily because The Bahamas was “governed” at the time by a group of mostly white businessmen known as The Bay Street Boys, who governed The Bahamas as if it were their personal fiefdom, and remaining under the colonial “umbrella” of Mother England was very beneficial for their various business enterprises.

The British had originally hoped to grant independence to all of its colonies in the West Indies as a group collectively known as The West Indies Federation, but that proposal was abandoned after Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados – the “Big Three” among the British colonies that were included in the proposal – could not agree on where the capital of the Federation should be located, as the egos of the leaders of those colonies at the time became a major divisive issue. Jamaica subsequently became an independent nation on its own in August of 1962, Trinidad and Tobago followed in November of that same year, and Barbados joined the league of independent nations in November of 1966.

There is no disputing the fact that when The Bahamas was eventually granted independence by Great Britain in 1973, the British left in place a sound educational system, a well-structured judicial system and centuries-old political guidelines based on the British Westminster model of governance, including a bicameral parliamentary system that’s considered sacrosanct when it comes to respecting time-honoured traditions.

In the Bahamas House of Assembly on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, a narcissistic egomaniac who was selected by the governing Free National Movement (FNM) as Speaker of the House totally disregarded the parameters of his authority and defiled that august chamber with arguably the most disgraceful utterances of any previous Speaker in the history of the lower House of Parliament.

In the process of doing so, Speaker Halson Moultrie also ignored and dishonoured the symbol of his authority in the House, The Mace, which sits majestically in front of him whenever he is in the speaker’s chair as a reminder that as the chief officer and highest authority in the House he must remain politically impartial at all times. Instead, Speaker Moultrie apparently came to the House well-prepared with a written response to criticism of his suspension of Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin, one of the four PLP opposition Members of Parliament.

Speaker of the House, Halson Moultrie.

Among the raft of reprehensible verbal attacks against members of the PLP levelled by Speaker Moultrie, the most disgraceful was his unbelievable personal broadside against Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis, MP for Rum Cay and San Salvador, in response to Mr. Davis’ claim that “misogyny” influenced the Speaker’s decision to suspend Mrs Hanna Martin.

According to published reports, here’s what the Speaker had to say: “While I can give you more than 90 reasons why the member for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador’s allegation is absolutely absurd, I shall confine my response to the fact that I am married to a beautiful and wonderfully made Bain and Grants Town woman for the past 38 years. And I want to emphasise to the member for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, that my wife is an indigenous Bahamian woman and that I have had in over those 38 years no reason for a divorce.”

It is hard to believe that the person who has responsibility for maintaining order during debates in the house, but who is not supposed to participate debates, would so flagrantly break the rules of the House to launch such a vicious personal attack on Mr. Davis and his wife. This is the kind of banter one would expect in a barroom after the participants have consumed more than their share of alcohol.

Aside from the fact that the Speaker’s appalling behavior sent shockwaves throughout the country, in this day and age when Social Media is an effective and the fast method of disseminating news, there is a strong likelihood that the Speaker’s conduct in the House has spread well beyond our borders and this clearly is not the sort of publicity that this country needs.

At the very least, at the next sitting of the House of Assembly, the first Order of Business should be Speaker Moultrie offering an apology to his House of Assembly colleagues and to the Bahamian people in general.

Commentary by Oswald Brown