It’s not often Bahamians get to witness, in high definition, the level of dysfunction of our government. This week, however, we got to see it in 4K.
On Wednesday, April 28, the Speaker of the House, Halston Moultrie, unilaterally decided to shut down parliament. According to Mr. Moultrie, his decision came due to the “disrespect of this institution and the disrespect of the office of the Speaker.”
The rules of the House give the Speaker the power to act as he did.
Backstory: The Clerk of the House, David Forbes, tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the Speaker reached out to the minister of health and leader of government business in the House, Renward Wells, along with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis for guidance. He said he received a one-word response from the PM, “noted.”
What Happened Next: The Speaker, at the next sitting of parliament on Wednesday, April 28, adjourned the House until May 3. According to Mr. Moultrie, he did not receive guidance from the executive branch, nor was his staff tested or the House disinfected. He criticized the government for instructing parliamentary staff to return to the House despite not testing House staff, disinfecting the chambers, or allowing them to quarantine, as per protocol.
Worth Noting: During his speech explaining why he was adjourning parliament, the Speaker said, “Now I don’t necessarily pick fights or wars, but if you want a war, you can get a war. They say if you don’t want a war, don’t start one. But don’t come in this parliament talking about reading books of war because more than one person in this parliament reads books of war.”
The Prime Minister was present during the Speaker’s diatribe. However, Renward Wells, Minister of Health, was not. Additionally, no members of the Official Opposition showed up on Wednesday.
So far, there has been no official response from the government concerning Wednesday’s shenanigans. However, we understand that as of Friday, April 30, the parliamentary staff is now receiving free coronavirus testing.