The Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A ROW erupted in the House of Assembly yesterday over the absence of Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin who, according to House Speaker Halson Moultrie, was scheduled to speak yesterday afternoon.
Mr Moultrie adjourned Parliament for a short time to await Mrs Hanna Martin’s arrival.
He said if she failed to show up she would forfeit her chance to speak in the budget debate unless the governing and opposition sides agreed to let her speak tomorrow.
Asked last night if such an agreement had been reached, Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells, leader of government business in the House, told The Tribune: “There was never any agreement for Glenys to speak (this) morning.”
Conflict between Mr Moultrie and Mrs Hanna Martin is not uncommon in the House and yesterday’s development seemed to set the stage for more controversy today.
Mr Moultrie said he had been given an “agreed list” indicating Mrs Hanna Martin was supposed to speak yesterday afternoon. But he said he heard her proclaim from her seat during yesterday’s morning sitting that she would not be speaking then.
“The chair wants this matter resolved in a way where it doesn’t become an issue tomorrow,” he said yesterday. “While I don’t want it to be said that the chair is seeking to deny Englerston the opportunity to speak, it will be said but I want the record to reflect that the member for Englerston, based on the list that I have, is missing in action at this time and that the chair is prepared to suspend the business of this House for ten minutes to give the member for Englerston the opportunity to present herself and to speak.
“(During the morning session) the member shouted that she is not speaking today, that she is speaking 10am tomorrow (Thursday) and she wants to see anyone prevent that from happening,” he said. “That is why I decided to address this matter this evening because tomorrow I am putting you on notice that if the chair is advised that there has not been some agreement, the member for Englerston would have forfeited her opportunity to speak today.”
In an interview with The Tribune last night, Mrs Hanna Martin said Mr Moultrie “misinterpreted her words.”
“The Speaker ought not to be referring to comments made from seats,” she said. “The rules do not allow for that. It’s not part of the record but he did it to support his bias. His bias has been overt and has taken him out of the realm of professionalism as a Speaker.”
She added: “What I said to the member for Bamboo Town is he cannot tell me when to speak, we have to agree when to speak. The Speaker heard only a part of what I said, which is that you cannot tell me when I can speak.”
Mrs Hanna Martin said she told Mr Wells on Tuesday that she would speak today.
“He did not indicate any objection to that,” she said, adding he came back on Wednesday and “somehow changed his mind.”
“I never saw any list, never agreed to any spot to speak on Wednesday,” she said. “I am very, very disappointed that the Speaker would make such a misrepresentation of what I said and it’s more of the same with him. Just the other day he quoted a proverb about quarrelsome women. I’m trying to figure out what is the meaning of these quotations about women that he is quoting in Parliament. He has shown a continuous bias against me as the member for Englerston and he did it again. It is becoming intolerable. I don’t recall anything like this in the history of our Parliament.
“What is happening is this is a government that does not want debate, that is dealing with a very controversial fiscal measure that is not resonating well with the Bahamian people. That is the real issue. But I will not be silent. The people of Englerston will not be silent.”
Mrs Hanna Martin said the debate had been poorly managed, with many ministers “speaking on the back end” rather than earlier so opposition parliamentarians could respond to what they said.
“I will be going to the House to speak,” she said. “I have violated no rule. There is no rule they can point to to say I am not invited. It is not the Speaker’s jurisdiction to determine whether or not a member has a right to speak.”