The Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie. (File photo)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
HOUSE Speaker Halson Moultrie had another tense clash with opposition members in the House of Assembly yesterday after he backpedalled on his order not to allow Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin into Parliament.
The latest confrontation came after he told Mrs Hanna Martin to withdraw from the House because of what she said from her seat during last week’s sitting. Mrs Hanna Martin did not leave the chamber during that sitting and the House of Assembly adjourned until yesterday.
Parliamentary clerk David Forbes wrote a letter over the weekend indicating that Mrs Hanna Martin would not be allowed to enter the House of Assembly unless she wrote an apology because of what he called the “defiance of the chair, the disrespect for the chair, the lack of respect for honorable members of the House and the House of Assembly itself,” along with the breaking of several House rules.
However, Speaker Moultrie rescinded his order yesterday morning for unclear reasons. Police officers had erected barricades in Parliament Square and dozens of officers, some carrying guns, stood guard. Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismella Davis-Delancey and Assistant Commissioner of Police Solomon Cash were among the senior officers at the scene. Mrs Hanna-Martin expressed shock at the heavy presence of police officers, prompting National Security Minister Marvin Dames to stress in the House that Police Commissioner Paul Rolle has operational control of the RBPF, not the politicians.
During the House proceedings, Speaker Moultrie expunged from the record comments Mrs Hanna Martin made from her seat last week.
“The Parliament of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a member of the Commonwealth Parliament Association,” he said. “It has more than 100 members. In that association it has been agreed by the various parliaments that there are certain words and phrases that are forbidden as unparliamentary words and phrases. The five leading words that have been banned and restricted in those parliaments included blackguard…a reference to slaves working in kitchens…lies, liar, rats and swine. They are the five leading words that have been banned.
“On the occasion of the 30 of June the honorable member for Englerston uttered the words that the members are running like scared rats and those words were audible to the ZNS broadcast, they were published all over the world, they went out to the world and it doesn’t matter in my estimation whether you are on your feet or on your seat when it comes to the rules of procedure and the fact is that in those rules the broadcast of the parliamentary proceeding are considered an official record of those proceedings. While in the member’s seat, the member uttered the words ‘y’all telling lies.’ On numerous occasions that was uttered on the broadcast tape. Those are two of the words that are banned by the parliaments throughout our jurisdictions and our commonwealth association.”
He then ordered that the words Mrs Hanna Martin uttered from her seat last week be expunged from the record.
Official Opposition leader Philip “Brave” Davis said in response that comments uttered when an MP is seated cannot be put on the record of the House.
“My position is that no record of those words should be in the record of the House because they were said when the member was sitting,” he said. “(Your position) is not a view that we have adopted because a lot of things are said from the chair. While I’m speaking, many members shout a lot of things and nothing is said to them. I don’t engage them and it’s not on the record.
“I had a conversation with the prime minister on the matters that transpired on that day that moved a letter to be written by the clerk on the direction of the speaker which (led me to think) that this (issue) would’ve been forgotten. But since you have raised it, we are troubled as opposition members by the constant tension that exists between us and only for the simple reason that you just don’t listen.”
Ahead of yesterday’s House sitting, Mrs Hanna Martin told reporters that Speaker Moultrie lacked the legal authority to deny her entrance to the House of Assembly, describing his actions as disturbing.
“We have to query what is the thinking in this country,” she said. “What you’re seeing is a pattern of behavior that is very disturbing and offensive. I don’t know what the motivation is, it is disturbing. This is the one place where you should be able to speak and that is being more and more restrained and constrained in this country. You look out here today, the police you see with big guns. We should all be on high alert and watching what is happening in this country. It is very disturbing.”