By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE Minnis administration-led Parliament is “deeply tribal,” “mediocre” and “unproductive”, according to former House Speaker Dr Kendal Major.
He contended the institution has driven disconnect between politics and the general public.
Days after House Speaker Halson Moultrie came under fire for his open rebuke of a Nassau Guardian reporter – who used her cell phone to take photos during a sitting – and criticising the Press, Dr Major publicly addressed the situation suggesting he might have handled it differently.
While he was careful not to directly criticise his successor, Dr Major did not mince his words when it came to the affairs of this session of Parliament under the Free National Movement’s direction.
“How the Parliament is conducted today I believe is deeply tribal, unprincipled in many respects and uninspiring to our young people,” the former Garden Hills MP told Progressive Liberal Party supporters at a Marathon youth meeting on Friday night.
“In many respects, it’s mediocre and unproductive; from the bills, to the process, to the procedures. There is a lot that needs to be answered and needs to be addressed among our people today.
“We are spiralling 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 continued: “That’s as much as it is my fault as it is the present politicians. The procedures of Parliament doesn’t serve the interest of the public today because much of what takes place is a disconnect with the public.”
He said cynicism about politicians and politics has emerged in public leaving people to always wonder what politicians’ motives are.
Earlier, he said Speaker Moultrie’s conduct last Wednesday in some respects was “over the top”.
At the time, Speaker Moultrie accused the media of “descending” to a certain level, adding it was an issue that needed addressing. He did not clearly explain what he meant, but told House of Assembly members that “fake” and opinionated stories had been published online and in local newspapers.
“The present disagreement that you see today between the honourable speaker that exists and the press, I find very instructive,” Dr Major told PLP supporters.
“Two days ago, I got four phone calls from journalists wanting some red meat. The red meat essentially was ‘what do you have to say about what happened in the House of Assembly’ and my answer to them I’m sure probably disappointed them, but at the end of the day I told them in essence it is easy to sit where I sit today from my perch and criticise another sitting member who has made a judicial decision whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent.
“If I were in that position, would I have made that same decision? I trust not, but obviously because he’s there he was faced with a different scenario and so I was careful in my capacity as a private citizen not to criticise his decision although one could argue that in some respects it was over the top in some respects and we could criticise it.
“But for me in my position, to add more fuel to that, it would be easy for me to just from where I sit criticise (as) a former speaker and I have sat in that chair and have also made some mistakes.”
Last week, some governing party MPs called for a change to “archaic” parliamentary rules, with some expressing concern that the Minnis administration could be perceived as swaying toward the side of dictatorship and possible censorship of the country’s free press.
Among them was Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine, who told The Tribune that Speaker Moultrie’s rebuke of the reporter went against the state’s mantra of transparency and democracy.
Speaker Moultrie’s actions were “in poor taste”, he said, adding reporters should have the convenience of carrying out their duties with liberty.
However, Health Minister and Elizabeth MP Dr Duane Sands said he did not see the situation as government’s attempt to stifle the press. Instead it was the consequence of outdated parliamentary rules, he said.
Meanwhile, Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller said he thought the situation was “mishandled” as the House sitting should have been briefly suspended to address the concerns instead of publicly and openly criticising the reporter’s actions.
The reporter seated in the House gallery, had taken photos of member of Parliament Chester Cooper, who was contributing to debate on a bill to exempt fees for replacement documents lost during Hurricane Dorian.
After he rebuked her actions, Speaker Moultrie then ordered the reporter’s phone be turned over to a House clerk and the images deleted. However this never happened. Instead Chief Clerk David Forbes called the reporter outside the gallery and motioned to her to delete the photos. She then did as instructed, but later retrieved the images from her deleted files.