ONCE again, House Speaker Halson Moultrie is grabbing the headlines.
This time, he ended up in a row with veteran MP Brent Symonette, who suggested the Speaker was stepping beyond his boundaries.
How did it all start? Well, there was a scheduling mishap that resulted in a session of the Senate not going ahead as it should. Mr Moultrie waded in, saying the Attorney General’s office wrongly blamed the parliamentary clerk for the scheduling mishap.
The Speaker’s business is the progress of the House – but he bizarrely then tried to rope in members of Parliament who are not seeking re-election for… what, exactly?
“There are a number of members of this Parliament who have indicated that they’re not going to be seeking re-election,” he said. “They include the member of St Anne’s, the member for East Grand Bahama, the member for Mangrove Cay, the member for South and Central Andros and the member for Garden Hills. Today, I call on those members to throw a blow for democracy, for tough parliamentary democracy by supporting the initiative for the independence of this Parliament.”
Independence is the most important word here – because that’s what a Speaker should be. The Speaker certainly should not be trying to influence sitting MPs to give support or oppose any particular agenda.
Mr Symonette, rightly, was having none of it, telling Mr Moultrie “you were trying from the chair to direct this member on what he should do and what he should say. I am in my third non-consecutive term in this House and two terms in the other place. I have never had a Speaker of either chamber direct me on what I should do”.
Mr Moultrie claimed it wasn’t a direction, but a request – but that’s just word games. It’s not the role of the Speaker to influence MPs in that regard.
It wasn’t just Mr Symonette getting into a debate with the Speaker, with Renward Wells MP also firing back at the Speaker’s statements about the rise in the national debt, which he linked to weak parliamentary oversight. Mr Wells pointed to the vote on the budget in response. Again, though, what is Mr Moultrie doing?
He has long seemed a disgruntled figure in his post. He has complained about his offices, even turning in his keys in November because he was not satisfied with the office and bathroom facilities. He has left the FNM. He has regularly spoken about making Parliament independent of the executive branch. He has also received backlash for his comment that spiritually a husband cannot rape his wife, while lashing out at “fake” stories in the press without making clear what he was talking about. He even clashed with a reporter for taking photographs in the House of Assembly.
In the end, after all that, it’s difficult to see how much he has actually achieved, all while attracting headlines completely unrelated to his role in the chair.
Seeking to sway Parliamentarians is the very opposite of the independence his role should carry. If he wants to campaign for legislation, he can do so – but it should be from the benches as an MP, not the chair as the Speaker. If he wants to do that, perhaps he should consider his future as Speaker. If not, then he must stay neutral, favouring neither party, and certainly not seeking support for legislation that is still only a theory and not a reality.
There is a certain amount of unease after the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine – the one we have for our vaccinations – was suspended in a number of European countries.
Concerns were raised as to whether it may cause blood clots, but the caution being exhibited by regulators is a good sign rather than something to worry about. This is how the process works.
Indeed, local expert Dr Nikkiah Forbes has pointed out that so far there is no indication of a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.
The European Medicines Agency is simply investigating after about 30 people out of five million reported an issue. Part of that process has seen some countries put a hold on more vaccinations while they wait for further information. As Dr Forbes says, “it’s just due diligence”.
She’s not just saying that. She’s putting the money where her mouth is – or rather the vaccine where her arm is. She was one of the first 110 people to receive the vaccine on Sunday.
Whenever a medication is rolled out, these types of pauses can happen. It doesn’t mean the medicine isn’t safe, it is in fact a sign of the thoroughness of the process.
A pause does not mean a disaster. We should remember sometimes, we just need a little patience.