HOUSE Speaker Halson Moultrie yesterday suggested there is a deliberate attempt to undermine his authority, telling reporters it appeared that once he makes recommendations “Cabinet is going to deny it”.
Calling this a “sad state of affairs for any nation”, Mr Moultrie further lashed out against the state over the erosion of the authority and function of the legislative branch.
Speaking to reporters yesterday on the sidelines of an event in his constituency, the Speaker went further with his criticism, suggesting that Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has acted like a “demigod” in the face of pushback on matters of principle that challenge the executive branch of government.
This should not be condoned, he said.
“What has happened over the years is the complete erosion of the authority and function and purpose of the legislative branch,” Mr Moultrie said. “So, we have developed situations where the leader or the Prime Minister in these jurisdictions can function like a demigod – like a person who is a maximum leader, a person who could just dictate.”
Asked if there were dissension within the governing party, Mr Moultrie said as far as he was concerned there was none, but when asked if he thought the Prime Minister was acting as a demigod, Mr Moultrie said: “I think the Prime Minister has good reason for his history to be concerned when anybody raises a voice. He has a certain history where he experienced uprising in his party against him. So, I understand to a certain degree his response whenever a person like myself would challenge the executive on matters of principle.
“I understand that but while I understand it, I don’t think it should be condoned.”
Mr Moultrie yesterday also updated reporters on the issue of work to improve conditions in his office.
At the end of October he turned in his keys to the government because he was not satisfied with the state of his office and bathroom facilities. He said he was refusing to set foot in that area again unless the situation was corrected.
Yesterday, he said the renovations should have happened a long time ago.
“I would say it should have happened a long time ago because I was advocating for the change in terms of the renovations of the Speaker’s office in the Bayparl building as well as the renovation of the ground floor of the Senate from October 2017. I have architectural drawings. I have an assessment of the scope of work. I have multiple assessments of the scope of work already done.
“Apparently the minister is not satisfied with what we already have so I’m not going to try to put a timeline on it. But one thing is for certain I would never be occupying the Bayparl building, which has been condemned by the police as a security risk for the Speaker of any nation.
“Not only is it a security risk it is (un) inhabitable in my estimation and it is a health hazard with the leaks and the moulds and no facility to even sanitise yourself internally.”
Asked if he considered the issue a slap in the face, Mr Moultrie said: “Let’s put it this way, we have had a degeneration of the separation of powers for decades now in the Bahamas dating back to 1985 when the executive branch of government took away the administrative and financial control of the legislative branch and since that time the legislative branch has been treated like a department of the Cabinet office that is in complete absolute contradiction of Article 72 of the Constitution, which calls for the executive branch to be accountable to and answerable to the legislative branch.
“But, of course, if someone is controlling your money and controlling your staff, how can you bring about that accountability?”
“It’s just an absolute mockery of democracy and I plan to stand against it at all risk.”
Further, the Speaker said the fact that a resolution to hold House meetings virtually or in a hybrid fashion had not been brought to the House was an indictment on the executive branch of government.
He was asked if the House of Assembly was expected to meet today.
“I expect us to function in compliance with the established protocols, the physical distancing. That will permit a maximum of 25 members.
“I expect all of the Cabinet ministers who are all out of quarantine now to be able to attend tomorrow’s meeting, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we don’t have that resolution. Again it is a complete indictment again on the executive branch of the government for refusing to bring that resolution before the Parliament so that the Parliament can decide that it can meet virtually or in a hybrid form, face-to-face or in some other location.”
He continued: “It appears to me as if once the Speaker recommends something the Cabinet is going to deny it. That’s a sad state of affairs for any nation.
“The three arms of government should be working together. The executive, the judiciary and the legislative branch. Legislative branch is the first arm of the government, the first arm.
“You cannot be an executive whether you are appointed or elected unless you come through the legislative branch. You have to be a member of Parliament.
“But, what has happened in small black territories. What has happened over the years is the complete erosion of the authority and function and purpose of the legislative branch.
“So, we have developed situations where the leader or the prime minister in these jurisdictions can function like a demigod, like a person who is a maximum leader, a person who could just dictate.”
“There is no dissension as far as I am concerned,” he commented further. “I am taking a Constitutional, legal and principled position no one can challenge the position that I took based on the Constitution.”
Asked if he thought the prime minister was acting like a demigod, the Speaker said: “I think the prime minister has good reason for his history to be concerned when anybody raises a voice.
“He has a certain history where he experienced uprising in his party against him and so I understand to a certain degree his response whenever a person like myself would challenge the executive on matters of principle.
“I understand that, but while I understand it, I don’t think it should be condoned.”