“Deeply tribal, mediocre and unproductive.”
Strong words from the former Speaker of the House in terms of criticism for the FNM government – and we might be moved to say it’s the kind of comment one might expect from an ousted PLP MP.
But is Dr Kendal Major wrong?
Certainly, we can admit that there were concerns back in Dr Major’s time as Speaker too – he himself for example admitted that he should not have allowed then Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald to read and table the private emails of environment group Save The Bays in Parliament. That admission may have been made easier by a Supreme Court ruling that Mr Fitzgerald was wrong to do so, but credit to Dr Major who admitted after the fact that he should not have allowed that to happen.
We should also note too that Dr Major’s ruling effectively blocking the Public Accounts Committee from probing the leaked audit report of Urban Renewal – by saying the committee cannot review anything that hasn’t been brought to the House by the auditor general – has also stymied the work of the PAC under the new administration. That helped to frustrate Reece Chipman MP in the new Parliament, leading to him quitting the PAC, quitting the FNM and going independent.
So we should certainly be aware of the source of the complaint – but again, is he wrong?
“We are spiraling out of control day by day, but yet the politicians of the day and the system of the day have not recognised the need to change it,” he says.
Certainly, the incident last week in which a reporter was ordered to surrender her phone and delete photographs on it by the current Speaker, Halson Moultrie, enhances divisions between politicians and the press. Mr Moultrie has been unrepentant about the matter afterwards – despite some MPs, including reasonable voices such as Dr Duane Sands, suggesting that parliamentary rules are outdated.
Dr Major didn’t outright condemn his successor – but said he trusted he would not have taken the same actions. It is to be regretted that Dr Major was not more forthright with his criticism. In the end, his comments point to a problem – but not to a solution.
There are clearly problems with parliament and its procedures, but how do we get to a solution for those problems if we can’t speak plainly?
That might need some politicians to accept criticism without letting their egos get bruised, and it also might require a more straightforward dialogue with the press and the people about what is needed.
We often hear the refrain about transparency – but how often do we see it in action? Does the current interpretation of rules regarding the PAC help or hinder investigations? Do the rules on cellphone use really fit with modern society where such devices are recorders, cameras, search engines, apps and more? Away from the House, do rules such as the recent instruction to move reporters 30 feet away from the entrance to Cabinet really benefit citizens or just offer a chance for MPs to ignore questions?
In each of these instances, is the motivation behind the rulings to bring openness? Or is it to close the door on the public?
The tribal element is clearly true, however – one can see that by the heckling between the two sides. And yet when in Opposition, each side finds itself calling for more of that elusive transparency.
Here’s our suggestion – set up a working group, with representatives from all sides. FNM, PLP and DNA too – never mind that they have no MPs at present. And talk. Explore what would benefit all sides, what would benefit the public – and not just now but for the longer term.
Bahamians deserve better than mediocre representation. The question is – what is the current government going to do about that?
A change to boost nation’s health
Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands has revealed that one in seven people in our country now has diabetes.
That is – in no exaggerated terms – a health crisis for the country. Dr Sands urged people to make healthier lifestyle choices, but a speech to a podiatry conference isn’t going to take that message very far.
Money is tight for the government after Hurricane Dorian, but it’s the kind of message that needs to be spread far and wide.
Best of all, it’s a message that needs to start young – which is the real way to change lifestyle habits.
We would hope that perhaps the ministry can partner with their colleagues over in the Ministry of Education to incorporate such messages into classes at school.
Let’s show a little imagination too – how about a competition through all our schools for children to come up with healthy Bahamian recipes? Couple it with exercise regimes to help tackle obesity.
Of course, it’s not just up to the government – so dear reader, it’s also over to you. What changes can you make to improve your lifestyle? The old song says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but today we might find that a spoonful (or two) of sugar less in our diet might help the diabetes rate go down.
Think those changes over – they might do you the world of good.