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Minnis And The House Rules

EDITOR, The Tribune.

In an article published on Monday of this week Miss Candia Dames alleged that the PLP members were attempting to suppress Dr Minnis from reading his poorly written (my words) statement.

The Speaker had given Dr Minnis permission to read a statement in the House even though the House was in the middle of another debate, even though he had denied him permission to do so earlier in the day and even though the Prime Minister had informed the House earlier that the matter concerning V Alfred Gray was under police investigation.

How then can Miss Dames claim that the PLP attempted to suppress Dr Minnis from reading his statement when I heard a number of the Ministers suggest several opportunities when it would be more appropriate for the Leader of the Opposition to make his statement? While Ms Dames has every right to expect the Speaker to rule against the government regardless of the rules and of parliamentary tradition, the Speaker does not have the right to make up his own rules. After hearing that the matter was under police investigation, the principle of natural justice ought to have been observed.

The debate on the Juries Bill had already commenced. As a lawyer, I was interested to hear of some of the provisions that were being proposed to make the judiciary a bit more workable and efficient. Everyone knows that in Roberts Rules once a motion had been proposed and seconded, you cannot move another item on the agenda before the original motion had been dispensed with. Dr Minnis’ statement in the middle of another debate was totally out of order.

The Speaker’s claim that he thought it was important that the matter should be aired right there and then was self serving. While it is the duty of the Speaker to be fair, he should at least have the political acumen to recognise political gamesmanship.

Miss Dames was quite generous in her praise for the Speaker even if it was only because he ruled against the PLP. I suppose Democracy only reigns when the government has its say but the opposition has its way. Surely if the Speaker considered Dr Minnis’ statement to be of national importance and that it was so critical for fairness to prevail, he could have used his apparent unlimited discretion to permit Dr Minnis to make his political statement in the morning when he first tried. Instead, the Speaker referred to some rule which did not permit the statement to be read before the Speaker had the chance to see it. When the Speaker had an earlier opportunity for Democracy to reign and for a matter of national importance to be read, he denied Hubert Ingraham the opportunity to read his resignation letter out of turn. Perhaps the rules only apply before lunch.

Some of the PLP Ministers pointed out to the Speaker that it would have been more appropriate for Dr Minnis to read his statement when the House adjourned later in the day. I understand that there are several House rules that would have accommodated the Leader of the Opposition’s statement at that time. In going against all parliamentary tradition when he allowed a contentious statement to be read in the middle of a debate, the Speaker may have wittingly or unwittingly facilitated the Leader of the Opposition’s design to make Cable 12 7:30pm evening newscast top story? But then again, he could have simply handed the statement in to Ms Dames and it would have been the top story.

ERIC D GARDNER

Nassau,

March 31, 2015.

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