By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE leading women in the Senate took newly appointed Senator Rodney Moncur to task during his first contribution to debate yesterday, with one accusing him of setting a “dangerous precedent” in the upper chamber.
Both Senate President Sharon Wilson and Leader of Government Business Allyson Maynard-Gibson, who is also attorney general, admonished Mr Moncur on breaches of conduct and failure to substantiate his claims.
Mrs Wilson warned Mr Moncur on one occasion that his statements were “severely” against the rules of conduct, bordered on scandalous and were offensive to another member.
For his part, Mr Moncur apologised for his errors and underscored that he did not have much time to prepare for the new post or the current debate as his appointment took place less than 48 hours prior. He said he only received the bills that were being debated on Tuesday morning.
Standing to her feet on a point of order, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said: “I do hope that the honourable member will refrain from making wild and untrue statements, and under the guise that he is a new member and that he doesn’t understand.
“This is a very dangerous precedent that has been set in here. Members are expected to be responsible, they are expected to come to this place and debate and telling the Bahamian people about the content of these bills and how they affect their lives.”
Mr Moncur began his contribution with an admission to Mrs Wilson and Mrs Maynard-Gibson that he would need a lot of mentoring in his new post.
He implored colleagues to be kind and assist him because he had not yet read the rules that govern the conduct of representatives in the upper chamber.
Senators debated four bills related to automated exchange of account information; trust law; and National Health Insurance.
Mr Moncur went on to clash several times with Mrs Maynard-Gibson, who routinely stood to her feet to challenge the new senator to substantiate his claims.
On two separate occasions, his comments were withdrawn and expunged from the record. He frequently punctuated his contribution with “God save the queen.”
Speaking to the finance legislation, Mr Moncur ultimately told the Senate that the legislation was “a wicked piece a bill,” that he would still vote for. However he urged Mrs Maynard-Gibson to be slow in implementing the financial legislation, speculating that that United States President-elect Donald Trump, who he called “his man,” would not approve of it.
“I’m not going stand in here and allow this place to be turned into a circus,” Mrs Maynard-Gibson said.
“I’m equally not going to allow the honourable member to impugn the extraordinary good work of the entire team in Parliament. If the honourable member was interested in obtaining these bills, as a senator or any other capacity, citizens in the Bahamas may go to the House of Assembly and obtain any bill that has been tabled. These bills have been in front of the House of Assembly for months, they have been on the website of the Office of the Attorney General for months.
“Now, we do not expect for any of us to suffer because the leader of the opposition in Parliament decided to wait until the 9th hour to appoint her senators that is nothing to do with us, or the citizens of this country. We are here to debate these bills, and we do not expect to waste time.”
Turning his attention to National Health Insurance, the controversial senator endorsed the government’s proposed scheme with an anecdotal story of a 25-year-old man that was unable to afford a MRI scan sometime during the previous term under the then-FNM government.
Mr Moncur was a member of the Democratic National Alliance at the time, and yesterday told parliamentarians that he felt the FNM government was wicked for not rendering assistance.
He lauded Golden Gates MP Shane Gibson, whom he claimed had acted immediately to help the young man, as his favourite minister in the PLP-led government.
As he advocated for the full passage of NHI before the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of Majority Rule, Mr Moncur also took the government to task over medication shortages at the Princess Margaret Hospital.
“These bills are very important, the amendments, why are you dragging your foot? It is a revolutionary piece of bills. …Let’s have it before we celebrate the 50th because the majority, which is my people, the Negro people, will need it.”