FOREIGN Affairs and Public Service Minister Fred Mitchell says he hopes there will be a new Parliament building in the next three years.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs and Public Service Minister Fred Mitchell said the government wants to construct a new Parliament building reflective of modern-day Bahamian culture that he hopes will be completed in the next three years.
Mr Mitchell, who will be responsible for parliamentary affairs, told parliamentarians yesterday of the government’s latest ambition as he raised concerns about the state of the historical buildings.
Speaking in the House of Assembly, he said: “What we want to do is a couple of things. We want a new Parliament building. I’ve been tasked with putting a new foreign affairs building and to put in place new rules so that in cooperation with the other side so that this place can run more efficiently.
“I say to myself, these buildings have been occupied since 1815. They came here at a time when the wealth of the society had increased because of Loyalists after the revolution in the United States and these buildings were emblematic of that period of our society.
“We’ve been independent now (for) almost 50 years and… we haven’t put our imprint on our country with anything which says this is us and this represents us and the building is clearly inadequate, it’s clearly inadequate.
“I mean you can’t have rats running around when you go into the Senate, rats running across your feet,” he continued. “There’s an awful smell… and then members of Parliament don’t even have control over their own budget. That seems to be ludicrous.
“So, Madam Speaker, we want to move in the direction of making sure that that is established properly (and) that there is three branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judicial and so there needs to be a new building and I want to get it done in three years…so before you go, y’all should be in a new building.”
A call for new a Parliament building is nothing new.
In 2014, then-Prime Minister Perry Christie said his administration was forging ahead with plans to construct a new House of Assembly complex, however the building did not materialise. When the matter was raised a year earlier in 2013, there was some pushback over concerns about how much the project would cost taxpayers.
Former House Speaker Halson Moultrie turned in his office keys last November after expressing displeasure to the Minnis administration regarding the poor conditions of the office in the House of Assembly.
He said the facility had no running water, bathroom facility and was even declared a security risk by police.
In June, then-Works Minister Desmond Bannister indicated to reporters that the Minnis administration planned to address the issue in the next budgetary period. However, they were later voted out of office in September.
Yesterday, Mr Mitchell also revealed that the Davis administration wanted to address the issue of privilege among other things for members of Parliament.
“And the other thing is which is important, and it’ll soon become subject to the Cabinet’s approval is to look at this question of the privileges, amenities and the support services that members of Parliament get,” Mr Mitchell also said.
“I’ll tell you the story of Sir Gerald Cash who was Governor General for ten years and after he had demitted (the) Office of the Governor General, one day I walked into (the Public) Treasury which was over at the Adderley Building which has now been taken down and so I walked into the Adderley Building and I see a man who looks like Gerald Cash standing on the line.
“So, I walked up to him and said ‘Sir Gerald, what are you doing here?’ and he said ‘Well, they told me that I have to verify that I’m alive or something and so that’s the only way they’ll continue to give me my pension as Governor General’. And I thought to myself that this is ludicrous and so what I’m saying is the House (of Assembly) should have a division of its support services that deals with all the things for members of Parliament and for those who are former members of Parliament and those who are public officials.”