By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin will attend the next sitting of the House of Assembly despite being named and suspended indefinitely by House Speaker Halson Moultrie, Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis announced yesterday.
Mr Davis, during a press conference at Progressive Liberal Party headquarters, said the party deems Speaker Moultrie’s decision “null and void,” as it does not “comport or comply” with the rules and procedures of the House of Assembly, and thus declared that Mrs Hanna Martin will attend Wednesday’s sitting.
Mr Davis indicated he may decide to speak with Speaker Moultrie of the opposition’s plans ahead of the commencement of House proceedings so as to “avoid any lack of decorum” and to see “whether he understands what he has done.”
Otherwise, he said the PLP supports “all lawful actions” by Mrs Hanna Martin to “ensure that this denial of her right to represent her people is reversed.” He also questioned if misogyny played a part in Mrs Hanna Martin being suspended from Parliament under two separate Free National Movement administrations.
“We intend to go (to the House) and Mrs Martin I expect to be there,” Mr Davis said. “I’m not going to allow her to be shamed in any way or disgraced in anyway or in any way to be embarrassed by any actions on the part of the Speaker.”
Mr Davis’ announcement came days after Mrs Hanna Martin was named and suspended from further parliamentary sessions after walking out the House as Speaker Moultrie commented on her behaviour during previous proceedings.
The explosive scene at the House last Wednesday was sparked during discourse over comments she made the week before regarding the firing of two Eleuthera airport officials, which were ultimately stricken from the record.
At the time, Speaker Moultrie stated that a decision on the period of the suspension would be determined and that Parliament would subsequently be informed. Otherwise, he ruled that Mrs Hanna Martin is “not entitled to enter the precincts” of the House unless “otherwise determined by the House and this chair.”
Yesterday, Mr Davis drew attention to Rule 88 of the Rules of Procedure of the House, which requires a motion being made by the leader of the House, which in turn is to be voted upon to enable the suspension of a member. Further, he said that in order to be named and suspended, the member in question has to have committed the offences set out in the rules.
As such, Mr Davis said Speaker Moultrie’s actions towards Mrs Hanna Martin were a “breach” of two “ancient privileges” afforded to parliamentarians, namely freedom of speech and freedom from arrest. Mr Davis also said that in suspending Mrs Hanna Martin for an “indeterminate amount of time” means he has “denied the voice of the people of Englerston in Parliament.”
“I have read the transcripts of the exchanges,” he said. “What comes to mind is the legal doctrine of proportionality. The Speaker’s response is out of all proportion to any supposed offence. The Speaker’s jurisdiction should be exercised permissively and not like a disciplinarian. He is to act fairly and judiciously. None of these seem to apply.”
Mr Davis also said that via Speaker Moultrie’s actions, it appears that “FNM speakers” have a “penchant” for being “troubled by Mrs Hanna Martin’s advocacy.”
“I am also constrained to say that it appears that it is the penchant for FNM Speakers it seems to be troubled by Mrs. Hanna Martin’s advocacy. We have only to remember that Alvin Smith did a similar thing when he was Speaker,” Mr Davis said.
“Given the evident patriarchy which continues to exist in so many forums of our country, one wonders also whether there is not a bit of misogyny operating here. I would hope not and therefore urge the Speaker to resile from his position and allow Mrs Hanna Martin to take her seat to represent her people.”
Even more so, Mr Davis said based on his observations, Speaker Moultrie’s naming and suspending of Mrs Hanna Martin was the result of “some personal animosity” that has been “brewing and growing” as a result of their previous interactions in the House.
“What truly irked me in a more serious way is how he assaulted the integrity and credibility of the member in a way that was totally unfounded and unfair,” Mr Davis added. “It is one thing to have your conclusion or views of a person. It’s another when you are saying that you, yourself, being what you termed a ‘trained scientist’ and an ‘observational specialist’ or ‘analyst,’ to proceed to make inquiries about something, come to your conclusions, and when that something is going to adversely affect the reputation of others, you don’t even engage them in that consultation, or let them know ‘look, I’m not going to embark on this because I have a belief about you, I’m going to determine whether the facts prove the belief.’
“You don’t do that, you just go ahead on a frolic of your own, make a determination which adversely affects the reputation of a member,” Mr Davis said. “How could that be fair in the minds of any right-thinking person?”
Mrs Hanna Martin, meanwhile, accused Speaker Moultrie of going “outside the official record of Parliament” to substantiate his claims concerning her behaviour during parliamentary proceedings, referring to him reviewing ZNS tapes of her during previous sessions as a part of an investigation he conducted towards that end.
“I’ve never seen that,” Mrs Hanna Martin said. “I have never seen a Speaker seek to escape the record to go and do something else to support whatever he was seeking to do.”
The Englerston MP also said it was “perverse” of Speaker Moultrie to suspend her from the House for the reasons he proffered while being such an “insister of the rules.”
Mrs Hanna Martin said: “For a Speaker who I must add has only been in Parliament for a few months – he’s a first time MP – for him to be such an insister of the rules, should in such a most flagrant and fundamental way in ousting a duly elected member of the House, should do that in a manner which is completely inconsistent with the rules that he so often touts for his authority and power in that House, is beyond ironic.”
Last week was the second time Mrs Hanna Martin was named in the House. The first time took place under the last Ingraham administration.