Categorized | National News

Speakers Should Have a Voice

House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major yesterday suggested straying from the status quo, by empowering the “Chair (the speaker) to be an Activist who deliberately promotes the strengthening of the institution”.

Dr. Major’s comments came as he addressed the Rotary Club of West Nassau in preparation for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Regional Conference scheduled for next week.

Dr. Major made recommendations of ways to give the speaker a “voice” and by extension, improve the parliamentary process in the country.

Three main areas in which the speaker suggested this can be done were to strengthen the institution of Parliament, modernize governance in Parliament, and participatory Governance.

“The first step should be at the constitutional level. I say this despite the three failed referenda that we endured. In our Westminster style democracy the responsibility of power lies disproportionately with the Executive. This means there is a greater potential for abuse.

We must loosen the chains which bind Parliament to the Executive Branch by unleashing Parliament’s autonomy,” said Dr. Major.

The speaker noted that currently there is an unlimited number of parliamentarians appointed to the Executive; and he asserted that this results in Cabinet ostensibly becoming the legislature.

“In our context we are presently experiencing a rate of 60 percent of the MPs are Cabinet Ministers. In my view constitutional changes should follow to ensure that there is a healthy functioning Parliament. I agree with the suggestion that a limit of 30 percent of the total number of elected Members is appropriate. Our constitution speaks to a minimum of 8 Cabinet Ministers. However, there is no provision for a required percentage of Ministers of the total Members in the House,” he said.

“The Constitutional Commission Report recommended that a maximum of 15 is feasible. It also said the following, ‘Lack of political accountability of the Cabinet exist because of the deepening fusion of the Executive and Legislature that can be produced in small countries like the Bahamas’, he continued.

In terms of good governance, the speaker said that would mean modernizing Parliament by making it control its own finances.

“This will enhance the accountability process, thereby further strengthening the efficiency of the institution. Once again a constitutional amendment should be the vehicle that enshrines this commitment; however this can also be done through Statute Law,” he said.

“If Parliament does not control its own budget then approval to host Seminars, travel for Continuing Education is granted through the good graces of the Cabinet. The Parliament is subject to go with cap in hand to meet their basic needs,” he continued.

Additionally the speaker reiterated his desire for participatory governance; the practice in which the public engages more in the parliamentary process.

He charged that there is a “disconnect” between the Parliament and the general public; suggesting that the connection and relevance of the Parliament to the Press and public should be improved.

Dr. Major added that parliamentarians should be held accountable for actions that exhibit defiance to the rules.

“This option would be a shot in the arm for accountability, a sense of justice and performance based employment,” he said.

When it comes to his role as Speaker Dr. Major admitted that it has not been an easy road; and at times there are some tough decisions that have to be made.

When asked if he regrets any of those decisions throughout his journey thus far, he said he has a clear conscience regarding all of his decisions.

Last week, Dr. Major was forced to suspend Free National Movement MP Dr. Andre Rollins from the Lower Chamber, after a heated exchange between the two; which came as a result of Dr. Rollins’ refusal to allow Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald to continue his contribution on the University of The Bahamas Bill.

Dr. Major did not opt to comment directly to that issue when asked by The Bahama Journal after the Rotary Club meeting, but he responded generally.

“I am there for all members of parliament. All members of parliament will be disciplined if necessary. I’ve been tested by both sides. I have stood the test and I would continue to do so,” he said.









Written by Jones Bahamas

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