Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
AFTER severing ties with the Free National Movement, Nassau Village MP Halson Moultrie said he has no intention of resigning as Speaker of the House of Assembly.
In an interview with The Tribune Friday, Mr Moultrie said he suspects the governing party will seek to prorogue Parliament to have him removed from the post.
The Nassau Village MP tendered his resignation from the FNM late Thursday afternoon citing the move came because his convictions collided with continued affiliation with the organisation.
“I have resigned as a member of the Free National Movement to become an Independent Speaker. I will continue to be Speaker. I will not resign,” he told The Tribune, speaking for the first time since he walked away from the party Thursday.
“However, that will be determined by how soon the House is dissolved. I expect some initiative by the governing side to try to prorogue the Parliament to have the Speaker removed. That might be a consideration.”
He explained that the House can be prorogued with a vote of no confidence which is a censure on the Speaker.
If that is successful, he said, the Speaker is not obliged to resign, but usually would comply with the wishes of Parliament except in extraordinary circumstances when the Speaker might feel that it is a “spiteful” intervention and then he can make a determination on whether or not he will resist by not resigning.
“If the Speaker refuses to resign there is nothing that can be done,” Mr Moultrie said. “It depends on how the matter is dealt with. If the matter is dealt with in an honorable, respectful way, then the Speaker will be inclined to abide by the wishes of Parliament. But if it is done in an adversarial, disrespectful manner then I will be obliged not to because my whole initiative is for the independence of the Parliament.”
Mr Moultrie, who for some time has been an advocate for autonomy of the House of Assembly, said it is very important that the Speaker’s position is on even keel with the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice.
“Those three branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) should be respected and should be separated in administrative independence and autonomy as well as financial,” he continued. “In the Constitution, Article 72 calls for the executive branch to be accountable and answerable to the legislature and that is not possible when the legislature is being controlled by the executive. That should never happen.”
Asked what drove him to resign, Mr Moultrie said there were a number of issues that led to his decision.
“It was a cumulative effect of a number of issues,” he explained. “Part of it was basically the reluctance to give to Parliament its autonomy and independence. Not willing to bring the Parliament Services Bill. Not willing to bring the resolution that was recommended by the Speaker with respect to the restructuring of the sitting of Parliament to accommodate the virtual sitting so that members can participate without being present in chambers.
“The refusal to accept the offer by Baha Mar to give us a complete facility with nine feet physical distancing at no cost at all to the tax paying Bahamian people. The refusal to the proper renovation to the Speaker’s office. It was a cumulative effect.”
Hours after Mr Moultrie’s resignation letter went viral, party insiders said his decision in part came out of anger as party officials decided not to offer him a nomination for his constituency.
Mr Moultrie denied this.
“First of all, the party had never indicated that there was someone slated to replace me in the Nassau Village constituency,” he said. “And, even up to this date and time now, no one has suggested that the party had identified someone to. That is just a spin that has been put on it. As a matter of fact only seventeen candidates were published and many incumbents were not included.
“My experience with the Free National Movement is that even persons who have been ratified are not guaranteed that on nomination day they will be nominated. In 2017 Kenyatta Gibson was ratified and he never got nominated. Lionel Sands was ratified for Bains and Grants Town and he never got nominated, Travis Robinson replaced him. Howard Johnson and I were ratified the same night.
“Howard Johnson was for South Beach and Jeffrey Lloyd replaced him on nomination day. So, it’s not any guarantee that if you get ratified you will get nominated. So that was not an issue to me.”
The Free National Movement said Friday it received Mr Moultrie’s resignation and looked forward to continuing to work with him to uphold democracy, transparency and accountability.