By Morgan Adderley
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Organization for Responsible Government has condemned the events that took place in the House of Assembly in the past three weeks.
In a press release published Thursday, the Organisation for Responsible Government (ORG) admonishes the “the derailment of procedure, personal attacks on private citizens and parliamentarians, endorsement of gender-based violence and other instances of lack of decorum”, which occurred both inside and outside Parliament.
Furthermore, ORG said these actions “should be beneath persons purportedly united in the goal of advancing this nation, regardless of their discrepancies. political or otherwise.”
ORG “regrets the sequence of events, and actions on both sides, that have led to this point.”
On January 31, House Speaker Halson Moultrie suspended Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin.
The Progressive Liberal Party has said that Mrs Hanna Martin was the target of disciplinary action in the House because she has advocated for the rights of two women who were fired from their jobs at airports in Eleuthera.
During a chaotic parliamentary session on February 7, MICAL MP Miriam Emmanuel attempted to voice her support for Mr Moultrie’s decision. In her speech, she suggested the relationship between the Speaker and MPs is analogous to that of a husband and wife.
Mrs Emmanuel said: “If you as a woman want to come up in your husband’s face and behave like you are a man, my father said then you will get manhandled.”
During that same session, Mr Moultrie also suspended the remaining opposition members. The Speaker then launched personal attacks against PLP members and former parliamentary clerk Maurice Tynes..
ORG described such events as “a debacle wherein members from both sides competed in spectacular displays of one-upmanship, leading to a litany of insults and woefully inappropriate remarks which undermined the House and the offices of those who serve it.”
The press release continued: “As civil society groups across the country anticipate important legislation due for table and/or debate, such as The Integrity Commission Bill, The Ombudsman Bill, Fiscal Responsibility Regulations and others, [ORG] cannot refrain from noting that these past weeks have been a disappointing display.”
“Political pride [has] now robbed the people of three weeks of debate time on the escalation of a tangential issue. Time meant for the debate and passage of essential legislation, the development of solutions, and collective work in the best interest of this nation.
ORG also lamented that suspensions mean, “the country will lose two additional weeks of balanced debate,” noting the “the necessity of a robust Opposition in parliamentary proceedings.”
“ORG urges MPs to prioritize the needs of the nation and the people and seek to focus on the important work at hand.”
The statement continues: “With regard to the allegations of political victimization, which spurred this sequence of events, it is an illustration of the urgency with which Parliament must advance its legislative agenda of bills aimed at providing recourse and transparency such as the Integrity Commission and the Ombudsman Bills.”
“Though we have no information on the veracity of the claims at hand, political victimization has been a reality in The Bahamas for decades and is not limited to any one party. Though Parliament is not the forum to investigate and punish such claims, it is clear that a mechanism for this purpose is greatly needed.”
“The Integrity Commission would provide a strong avenue for the combat of victimization and corruption. However, it must first pass in the now heavily delayed House of Assembly.
“Lastly, this issue illuminates the need for review of Parliamentary mandates including the Rules of Procedures, Powers and Privileges and Code of Conduct - a suggestion which previous Speakers have admitted is overdue.”
“Calls to modernize and consider regional best practices related to parliamentary procedures have been made by MPs from both sides throughout the years, especially when The Bahamas played host to the 41st Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in 2016.”
“Issues such as ensuring the proper function of all House Committees, upholding ‘Opposition Day’, strengthening the powers of the Public Accounts Committee and imposing fair penalties for improper behaviour should all be addressed as a part of such a review.”