By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT and RASHAD ROLLE
A DAY after he quit the Free National Movement, House Speaker Halson Moultrie said he has no intention of resigning from his Parliament post but suspects the governing party will try to prorogue Parliament to remove him.
However, Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells, the leader of government business in the House of Assembly, suggested yesterday Mr Moultrie will remain Speaker despite resigning from the FNM last week.
“I’m not aware of any plans (to remove him),” Mr Wells said when contacted on Sunday. “I believe that the Prime Minister is of like mind to me in this regard. The Prime Minister has always been of the mindset that the government is not afraid of being open, transparent and really impartial in the way we seek to address issues with the Bahamian people. That has been the hallmark of the administration.”
Mr Moultrie resigned on Thursday afternoon, saying the move came because his convictions collided with continued affiliation with the FNM. Speaking to The Tribune on Friday, Mr Moultrie said he has no intention of resigning as Speaker of the House and will only do so based on how the government deals with the matter.
“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, 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 honourable, 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.”
Yesterday Mr Wells suggested proroguing Parliament to remove Mr Moultrie will not happen.
“We have a situation,” Mr Wells said, “and I don’t believe the governing side is going to move in a direction of seeking a vote of no confidence or proroguing the House because I believe legally the only way we can remove a speaker in the current system is to actually go to a general election.”
Asked if he believes the governing party can work with Speaker Moultrie, Mr Wells said: “I believe the operations of the House of Assembly will determine how the government moves forward its agenda. Wherever there are obstacles, we will remove them.
“The way I see it is the government’s agenda will move forward. We are not going to allow anything to hinder our work for the Bahamian people.”
Asked what drove him to resign, Mr Moultrie said on Friday there were a number of issues that led him to his decision.
“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.”
Mr Moultrie also denied the reports that he resigned because he would not receive a nomination to run again in Nassau Village.
“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 17 candidates were published and many incumbents were not included.”
He said in his experience, being ratified also does not automatically mean a nomination in any regard.
“So that was not an issue to me,” he said. “Whenever a Speaker is elected, he should resign from the party that he was affiliated with prior to becoming the Speaker. Now I can see people having an issue that it took me four years to do it. But, I can’t see anyone having an issue that it was actually done.”
There is also speculation that there is “bad blood” between Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Mr Moultrie. Asked about it, Mr Moultrie hesitated before saying, “I wouldn’t say there was bad blood. There might have been some issues with respect to the way things are done. There might have been issues with the way I do things. I can’t make any apologies for the way God created me and who I am. Anybody in The Bahamas who is around politics long enough knows exactly how and who I am.”
He added that while some see his resignation as sudden, he had been advocating for this “change” for years.