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Opposition Senators Sit Out -Standing By FNM Leader

senate walk out

Opposition senators sat out of Senate proceedings yesterday after being denied the opportunity to make a communication when Senate proceedings began.

The Free National Movement’s senators instead held a press conference in the Minority Room.

Senator Kwasi Thompson, flanked by Leader of Opposition Business, Senator Desmond Bannister and Senator Heather Hunt, gave the communication to the press.

“Not so long ago, I had the distinct honor of sitting as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and as such became well acquainted with the rules and procedures of the House of Assembly,” he said.

“In the past days the Leader of the Her Majesties Loyal Opposition, the Member of Parliament for Killarney, Dr. Hubert Minnis, was ordered to leave under threat of force from the precincts of Parliament thereby striping him of his speaking rights and privileges and in the process creating a mockery of our parliamentary democracy. Bahamians all across the country watched in horror as the one who leads and represents the official voice that challenges and questions the government was forced out. This is still The Bahamas, a place where it is not only permissible to question our leaders but it is also our obligation as citizens, an obligation which should be exercised without fear of government retaliation.”

He said it is the Opposition’s view that the entire event was contrary to the House rules and an affront to democracy, freedom and liberty.

“We believe and submit that the position taken by the Speaker and as a consequence the procedure adopted by the majority was wrong, flawed and an abuse of authority,” Senator Thompson.

“As lawyers we would say he acted ultra vires his authority due to the following: the leader made certain comments which the Speaker ordered to be expunged thereby removing them from the record yet he directed that our leader nonetheless withdraw those already expunged comments or be named. We here in the upper House must take the national high ground and are aware of the conundrum that it is clearly impossible to withdraw that which has been expunged from the record. On this point we believe that the Speaker to be wrong.”

Secondly, after insisting that Dr. Minnis do the impossible and erase the invisible or table evidence supporting his comment or face consequences, the Speaker then called for a motion to name, according to Senator Thompson.

“Is there in our rules a motion to name a member,” Senator Thompson asked.

“Does such a motion even exist and if it does not exist could it have the effect of suspending a member. The rules provide for a motion to suspend a member not a motion to name. Our position is therefore that the entire chapter is a fallacy and a farce of our entire system of governance it is very sad chapter. What is even of greater concern is that this heavy handed and draconian action shows a blatant disregard to the office of Leader of Opposition, which is entrenched in our Constitution. The naming and suspension of any Member of Parliament in particular the Leader of Opposition should only be used in the most extreme and rarest of cases as there are very few examples, of this drastic measure in Commonwealth Parliamentary countries.”

The senator said that Dr. Minnis leads the voice of opposition in Parliament ensuring that the government is held accountable.

“It is therefore a most serious matter which may have constitutional repercussions for our nation when the person who holds this office is removed and prevented from exercising his constitutional parliamentary rights and privileges and from leading those members who the constitution recognise as supporting him,” he said.

“We the Opposition Senators are upholding our obligation to ensure that governmental power is exercised with care and with a deep respect for the constitutional office of Leader of the Opposition and all dissenting views. Therefore with much thought and deliberation we are unified with our Leader and with our Party and Bahamians who cherish the democratic traditions of our Parliamentary government. We believe Bahamians will appreciate the stand that we take in defence of that democracy by not sitting in this place until such time as our leader has been able to resume his seat in Parliament.”

Senator Hunt said she is not of the view that the Opposition is doing a “disservice” to the Bahamian people by sitting out.

“We do not believe that we are doing our supporters and the Bahamian people a disservice because our stand is a principle one and everyone recognises what we are doing is to highlight the sanctity and importance of the constitutional office of the leader of the Opposition,” she said.

“Without respect for that office, the government is free to do what it chooses without checks. Bahamians should be comforted that opposition members are trying to protect constitutional democracy and the office of the leader of the opposition.”

The Senate will resume on August 28 at 10:00 a.m.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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