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Door Left Open For Reconciliation

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel has defended the firings of two parliamentary secretaries and one board chairman this week by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, however he insisted “reconciliation” remains the focus.

While giving a speech during the Senate’s budget debate yesterday, Mr Bethel, the leader of government business in the Senate, implored people who have taken issue with the prime minister’s decision to review the Westminster parliamentary system.

While he admitted that there are some “peculiar” factors built into the system, he contended the rules must be followed.

Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson and Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine were all fired on Tuesday from their appointed posts, a day after breaking ranks from their party and voting against an increase in value added tax (VAT).

Mr Miller, former parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Social Services, and Mr Robinson, former parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, were cited for breach of the Manual of Cabinet and Ministry Procedure. Mr McAlpine, former chairman of the Hotel Corporation, also had his post given to him by Dr Minnis stripped.

“So this is a system that has its own peculiar rules,” Mr Bethel said. “We know not only are they peculiar, they are well established, they are almost inflexible. These rules are clear, well-known to all who enter in the political arena.”

He continued: “Because of the special constitutional status and from the very inception of it, parliamentary secretaries . . . had to bear the same duties as a Cabinet minister. And the manual of Cabinet ministries clearly sets out the rules which guides every parliamentary secretary and Cabinet ministers.

“And not only is a parliamentary secretary precluded from voting against the government, he is even precluded from speaking out against any government measure.

“He is a member of the government. Rules are irrespective of person,” Mr Bethel said.

“Just because a person may become a sympathetic figure or even a beloved figure, there can be no exemption on the rules. The rules are the rules.

“If you do not have a system of rules, you have chaos,” he added.

“You don’t have the right of free speech that every MP generally has, as parliamentary secretary. Your voice is your own as a member of Parliament. You are elected by your constituents to represent them on the floor of the House of Assembly and say whatever the Lord lay on your breast to say, but your vote is mortgaged to the governing party. The party on whose ticket you (were) elected. If the whip is on, you must vote according to the whip.”

He added: “If the government determines that there is a question, that is a question that is properly a question of conscience and says, ‘The whip is not on, everybody may vote the way they wish to, vote according to their conscience.’

“Those are the principles and those are the rules and I explained that to my colleagues.”

Mr Bethel added: “These are not Bahamian rules, there are rules that are intrinsic to the parliamentary system of governance. This is what makes the parliamentary system, quite frankly, far more efficient as a system of governance than the biggest competitor around – the congressional system.”

Directly addressing calls from some for the Bahamas to move away from the Westminster system, he added: “Where should we go?”

Of the congressional system, he noted the cost of managing day-to-day operations and the constant fear of necessary actions being slowed due to a lack of political will, using incidents from American history as examples.

“If the House (Congress) decides it don’t like the Senate, or none like the (US) president, nobody does anything,” Mr Bethel said. “We saw that for eight years with President Obama where the system was able to be used to totally frustrate the will of the people by persons in the congressional system.

“Is that what the Bahamians wish?”

He also presented the option of a dictatorship, adding: “And none of us would like that. None of us want to follow a communist system where one single party makes up the executive.”

Mr Bethel said while issues surrounding Tuesday’s firings seem extreme and controversial, he was of the view the FNM could resolve the issues and move forward.

“The FNM has the distinct track record,” he said.

Mr Bethel highlighted several cases of former FNM parliamentarians, Cabinet members and senators who, at some point, dissented against the party.

He said while the party has a record of being stern and respect for rules, it also has a record of reconciliation.

He said the party intends to continue with reconciliation and forward progress.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 3 months ago

Here's an idea. Ignore rules that do nothing to promote democracy. Then work to change them. Firing the dissenters was the wrong move. Period.

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licks2 3 months ago

Better still. . .lets get rid of every dang rules and regulations that don't fit your liking. . .then lets put in some that you like. . .JUST TO KEEP YOU SHUT UP!

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Greentea 3 months ago

You embarrassing yourself "Licks" 2. Kissin' ahs makes a dumb ahs.

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licks2 3 months ago

Our reasoning skills are open to all. . .just because I don't follow your silly and fraudulent way of political dialogue that means I kiss backsides?

The most you can say about me is that I AM FNM and support Doc!! So if I do. . .what's that to you? We draw swords with our reasoning skills. . .

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mandela 3 months ago

It's not right then to give any MP a parlimentary job or any position where they have to be beholding to the government's stance and also to the people they represents, I think that's clearly a conflict of interest, how is a person to serve two masters the government and the people and be right, at the end of the day the peoples voice are not considered or respected .

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months ago

Both Carl Bethel and Minnis alike are being about as disingenuous as they come in their self-serving interpretation of the rules under the Westminster parliamentary system of government. They wrongfully would have us believe the system does not allow for the exercise of discretion; hence we now hear, against the backdrop of the loud public backlash, their back-peddling lip-service talk about being open to reconciliation. Truth be told, Minnis's insatiable desire for the powers of a dictatorship blinded his ability to exercise sound discretion and common sense in the interest of the constituents represented by the four MPs he has (and no doubt will continue to) severely victimize.

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DDK 3 months ago

Of course discretion could have been exercised. Those termination letters were probably printed and signed in advance of the vote!

For his sake, I hope our esteemed PM was honest about "rather losing an election". Trouble is, as with the VAT, perhaps losing to the only opposition that currently exists may not be an option the MAJORITY of the Free National Movement would have wanted. The PM may have lost sight of the forest.

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licks2 3 months ago

I GUESS IF YOU CAN TELL THEM ABOUT THEIR "SELF-SERVING" INTERPRETATION OF THE LAW YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE? So why not save us the trouble of miss-interpretation again. . .WHY YOU DON'T JUST TELL US WHAT IT SAYS PLEASE!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months ago

Everything there ever was or is to know about the Westminster parliamentary system of government is available online for reading by anyone.....including you. Forgive me, but I have so many more important things to do than try educate someone like yourself.

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licks2 3 months ago

Then I guess you are just being disingenuous and political. . .see there. . .you DNA are now the official opposition party come next election. . .PLP will never come back again. . .but yinna still got dumb nonsense coming out of yall camp like this. . .childish political clap trap. . .dishonest political clap trap. It is ya job to "educate" persons like me if yinna want to win an election. . .persons like me will continue to make yinna look like fools and deaf. . .childish and naive political old shoe!!

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TalRussell 3 months ago

Ma Comrades, the Seven red shirts MP's the Speaker had mark as being absent out their House seats when time vote for 12% VAT along with their party's business leader in House Renward - should be be made on their return pay visits to their respective constituencies to share with their constituents all what the Seven MP's learned while traveling to all kinds countries away from the Bahamaland - that could possibly be of benefit their own constituents?

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licks2 3 months ago

Childish and foolish. . . keep reminding us why the PLP must never be in our face as government again!!

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John 3 months ago

Buy Carl Bethel one half pint and he done talking out he head. But him one quart and ...ok then !

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licks2 3 months ago

Ad-hominic rebuttal only shows that you are "burst" and proved wrong but continues to fight by attacking the messenger. What Mr. Bethel favorite drink is or how much it takes to "mash him up" comes in here!

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bogart 3 months ago

Shouldnt Ace Newbold be doing the explanations of the Parliamentary system ....to the general public ..?.???

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Greentea 3 months ago

Funny. Someone need to put an APB out on Ace.

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happyfly 3 months ago

"Crossing the Floor" is an integral part of democracy and exactly what the Westminster System is supposed to represent. There are two parties and if one party has the majority but it is making a ridiculous law, members of the ruling side are able to cross the floor and vote against the bill. That is the people's power. Firing dissenters within your party is tantamount to Fascism and indicates that the current FNM leadership has absolutely no idea how the Westminster is supposed to work.

Challenges and debate within a party equal a healthy democracy. Blind submission to a single party line is communism

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licks2 3 months ago

In the book The English Constitution, Walter Bagehot emphasised the divide of the constitution into two components, the Dignified (that part which is symbolic) and the Efficient (the way things actually work and get done), and called the Efficient "Cabinet Government".[9] Although there have been many works since emphasising different aspects of the "Efficient", no one has seriously questioned Bagehot's premise that the divide exists in the Westminster system, though Israel and Japan operates without the "Dignified" part of government. Members of the Cabinet are collectively seen as responsible for government policy, a policy termed cabinet collective responsibility. All Cabinet decisions are made by consensus, a vote is rarely taken in a Cabinet meeting. All ministers, whether senior and in the Cabinet, or junior ministers, must support the policy of the government publicly regardless of any private reservations. When a Cabinet reshuffle is imminent, a lot of time is taken up in the conversations of politicians and in the news media, speculating on who will, or will not, be moved in and out of the Cabinet by the Prime Minister, because the appointment of ministers to the Cabinet, and threat of dismissal from the Cabinet, is the single most powerful constitutional power which a Prime Minister has in the political control of the Government in the Westminster system.

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licks2 3 months ago

I will tell you like mudda-sick told me. . .the are plenty information out there. . .you don't have to make untrue statements. . .go read!

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DDK 3 months ago

All well and good, but it may have something to do with the fact that these MP's also held positions as Permanent Secretaries and Corporation Chairman. It might be that these positions cannot be held effectively if said MP is not in sync with the policies of the reigning government as there could be conflicts of interest............

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sheeprunner12 3 months ago

Minnis giveth ......... Minnis taketh away .......... that is the power afforded Minnis by the Constitution.

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Chucky 3 months ago

"Political Party's " are the most anti democratic part of the system. Party discipline- i.e. forcing members to vote along party lines is tantamount to treason, i.e. forcing the elected to vote in line with party objectives regardless of their number one mandate which is to represent the will of the people's.

Anyone in support of firing party members for voting against "the party line" is not a supporter of democracy, much less a supporter of the people.

We need to push this issue and force these guys to come clean and get them out of office as quickly as possible.

Let's not forget, that the main reason "party discipline" exists, and persists is so that "party agenda's" can knowingly be forced on a populace despite the people's will.

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