House Speaker Halson Moultrie.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
HOUSE Speaker Halston Moultrie said yesterday he has “issues” with the atheistic beliefs of Finance Secretary Marlon Johnson as he doubled down on his criticism of the senior public officer by saying he insulted Parliament and disrespected the Speaker’s Office.
Speaker Moultrie – who never identified Mr Johnson directly – took apparent aim at the decision of the executive to resume a lunch programme at Parliament without his knowledge and with Mr Johnson’s assertion to him in private that the cost of a new Hansard for the House of Assembly was too high.
He raised the matter earlier this week, but did so again yesterday after East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest, the former Minister of Finance, started his contribution to the budget debate by defending Mr Johnson.
Speaker Moultrie interrupted Mr Turnquest after the MP accused him of “unfortunately inadvertently” misleading the House when he “chastised the acting financial secretary”.
Denying that he took aim at a civil servant, Speaker Moultrie said: “Certainly I don’t think that anything that I said was unwarranted because I simply reported the facts. Those facts haven’t changed. They remain the same so I don’t want you, as you proceed, to attribute anything to me in your efforts to protect… any member who may be a civil servant. The remarks I made with respect to the person that I addressed, I thought about those remarks before I made them and I stand by them. I don’t see them as an attack on a civil servant.
“He expressed his beliefs publicly. I have issues with those beliefs because they are inconsistent with mine and I expressed my view with respect to those beliefs and I am satisfied that when I sat and met with the individual he presented information to me as the presiding officer and head of the legislative branch. He was disrespectful because he did not first of all have the courtesy to consult with the Speaker or anyone else in this Parliament before decisions were taken that would affect the Parliament and in the second instance, he made allegations that the documents that were presented to him were inflated and I asked him to produce the evidence.
“He was unable to produce one scintilla of any evidence to justify that claim. That claim was offensive to me because from that I perceived that he was suggesting that information which was sent… we had four quotes, it was approved by the Tenders Board and it was sent on to the Cabinet and approved by the Cabinet but he had the audacity, in my estimation, to come and sit before the Speaker and suggest that it was inflated.
“I asked him to produce the evidence. He indicated that he was not at liberty to produce the evidence. Now I happen to be a trained attorney. You can’t come convince me and build a case and refuse to produce the evidence and so I am of the particular group with respect to what happened and what my experience was and I’m not going to permit anyone to suggest that I was being unfair to him because I think what he did was insulting and disrespectful to this Parliament and to the Speaker.”
In response, Mr Turnquest suggested the Speaker missed his point and should have let him finish his thought.
“Honourable member, you started off wrong,” Speaker Moultrie replied.
Mr Turnquest responded: “With due respect Mr Speaker, you have the right to state your opinion and I have a right to state my opinion.”
Speaker Moultrie then said: “And your opinion cannot infringe on my rights.”
The two argued for several minutes but Speaker Moultrie ultimately declined to let Mr Turnquest continue. The former minister soon explained that he made the decision to cancel lunch for parliamentarians last year.
Earlier yesterday, Speaker Moultrie accused unidentified parliamentarians of planting stories about him on social media sites.
His comment followed a speech from Minister of Public Services Brensil Rolle.
“You raised the issue of social media and social media in my estimation is a double-edged sword,” he said. “Like you said, things that you may have done and many things that you would not have done may appear on social media but we, as honourable members in this place, have got to maintain the standard and ensure that we are not the initiators of some of those things that we see and hear in social media. Because I am aware and information has reached me that some of the media stories that I have received and some that have went out about me were initiated by some of you and some stories that have gone out on other members in this place have been initiated internally and that is disgraceful in my estimation for any member of this chamber to engage in such activities.
“I don’t want to have to name anyone but believe me, I was on the verge of doing so on a number of occasions but I don’t believe that would be in the best interest of this institution or the members who have been identified to me.”