By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
HOUSE Speaker Halson Moultrie committed a “clear and flagrant breach of the Constitution” when he submitted a report on Friday to Governor General C A Smith that contained only his signature and no one else’s from the Constituencies Commission, committee member Marco City MP Michael Pintard said in a statement.
“No other member signed off on the report and it does not represent what the majority of the commission’s members agreed to,” Mr Pintard said.
Mr Pintard noted that, according to Article 69(3) of the Constitution, any decision of the commission requires agreement from no fewer than three members.
“Pursuant to Article 70(3),” he said, “when the commission intends to submit a report to the Governor General, it must (first) give written notice of the intention to the Prime Minister, who shall publish that notice in the Gazette.
“The action of the Speaker does not comply with any of these fundamental provisions of the Constitution and is a blatant disregard for legality and for the constitutional order of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
Speaker Moultrie chairs the Constituencies Commission. Other members include Mr Pintard, Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper, Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells and Supreme Court Justice Deborah Fraser. All members – with the exception of Speaker Moultrie – signed Mr Pintard’s statement.
Mr Pintard said: “What was clear from the beginning of this process, which began last September, is that the Speaker of the House was intent on having his own way and doing his own thing.
“The Speaker announced a meeting to sign the report, which was not properly constituted, and there was not a quorum. The member for Exuma indicated via email that he was in his constituency and not available for the meeting. No other member of the commission responded to the email or attended the meeting.
“The Speaker submitting a report to the Governor General signed only by him is grandstanding and political posturing. It marks a low point in the history of our democracy.”
Speaker Moultrie’s term has come to be defined by controversy and this is only the latest indication of this. He quit the Free National Movement in February this year to serve as an independent Speaker.
According to the unsigned report, a copy of which The Tribune obtained yesterday, most members of the committee opted not to recommend that constituency boundaries be changed to adjust the current number of 39 constituencies.
Speaker Moultrie and Mr Cooper disagreed with the majority, according to the report. However, Mr Cooper’s opposing view was not included in the report, which said his view was “not received at time of printing.” The report nonetheless said Mr Cooper had concern about the “purity and accuracy of the permanent voters register with respect to the purging of deceased persons; and the number of missing persons not yet presumed dead as a result of the impact of Hurricane Dorian on the five constituencies in Grand Bahama and the two constituencies in Great Abaco.”
Speaker Moultrie, meanwhile, recommended that the number of New Providence seats be increased to 26, Grand Bahama seats be increased to six and the MICAL constituency be split “to reintroduce the constituencies of Inagua and Mayaguana and the constituency of Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay.”
In a statement yesterday, Speaker Moultrie said there is no constitutional requirement for signatures from “all” members of the committee.
“The Constitution mandates that the Speaker is the chairman of the commission. He is the communicator for the commission. The requirement of the chairman’s signature on any documents communicating decisions of the commission should be obvious,” he said.
Speaker Moultrie noted the report makes it clear that most members did not recommend changes to the boundaries.
He said the Constitution does not allow for dissenting voices to be silenced, “which was the goal motivating the majority and another bone of contention in several meetings.”
“Dissenting voices have a right to be heard. The stalemate came about because of the efforts of the majority to acquire all five signatures in spite of the dissenting voices, thereby giving the false impression that the decision of the commission was unanimous,” he said.
According to the report, information from the Parliamentary Registration Department showed there were 191,217 registered voters, including 132,443 on New Providence, 30,552 on Grand Bahama and 28222 in the Family Islands.