Moultrie loses in the court of public opinion
The speaker of the House of Assembly believes that his river of crocodile tears can wash away his egregious transgression, but he has done irreconcilable damage to a hallowed institution that he cannot now be trusted to help heal.
If he truly were to adhere to the code of conduct of the Westminster model of Parliament as well as honor the 288-year-old traditions of our own Parliament, then he would have resigned the speakership over his disgraceful tirade. The honorable thing was to not put the institution he claims to revere through the humiliation of having to publicly upbraid its speaker.
While resignation was the honorable thing to do, it was not in the lexicon of the man who was once leader of the fringe party, the Bahamas Freedom Alliance. Halson Moultrie instead waited for a lifeline to be extended to him by his adopted party, the FNM, who in so doing tarnished their own reputation as disruptors committed to shaking up the political establishment and to reintroducing the culture of good governance that we last saw with Hubert Ingraham.
Reasonable people must reject the argument that Moultrie’s hate-filled monologue put Prime Minister Hubert Minnis between a rock and hard place. Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason is never a cause for conflict or consternation.
Just imagine what a tone Minnis would have set if, instead of choosing to give Moultrie a blanket to cover up his bigotry, homophobia and intolerance, he instead banished Moultrie to the backbenches to ponder his xenophobia and his vitriol.
The opposition could be forgiven for not trusting the promises made by Moultrie 2.0 to be impartial in the future. Hoping Moultrie matures enough to be able to change his ingrained views at his age is the same mission impossible as trying to get Donald Trump to disown his prejudice and misogyny, as our American friends are finding out to their own dismay.
The PM wasted valuable political capital saving the bacon of the Neanderthal who should have been left to twist in the wind. In Britain in 2009, the speaker of the House of Commons resigned over his role in an embarrassing expenses scandal. He said he did so to preserve the dignity and decorum of the House.
In more recent memory, the speaker of the Parliament in Nigeria resigned over allegations that he had misstated his academic qualifications. His own party pulled the rug from underneath him leaving him no choice.
What Moultrie did was arguably more offensive than his colleagues in Britain or Nigeria. It would be interesting to see what the membership of the Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth think of Moultrie’s behavior.
Moultrie is a member, and presumably he should consider if his actions reflect poorly on that conclave. The CSPOC has as its objective the “fostering and encouragement of the impartiality and fairness of speakers”. Perhaps even they would look askew at his behavior.
After embarrassing us with his venom one week the speaker the next week insulted us with his half-baked apology. For starters, he should have apologized to the House before it voted on what to do with him. He chose to apologize only after his job was secured, calling into question his sincerity.
He directed his apology toward the opposition, when it fact it was not just the whole House, but the Bahamian people whom he had insulted in our House. No remorse for us.
But was he sorry for harboring such bile in his thoughts or for promulgating such hurtful language? Or was he only sorry for making his private thoughts public?
Then, amazingly, this tone-deaf man morphed himself into the victim instead of the bully. His wife and he were attacked in the media, he said with a straight face, not once countenancing the hurtful innuendos he had hurled at a parliamentary wife, PLP officials and even a retired House clerk who, by all accounts, had served the Parliament admirably.
Though he said his comments were inappropriately made from the speaker’s chair, he couldn’t grasp the fact that his poisonous outburst should not even have been made from a barstool.
His comments were reckless, and his apology was inadequate. He said that the people who responded to his hate speech were entitled to his divine forgiveness. Their words were hurtful and mean, the speaker said. As an ordained minister of God (loud gasps allowed), Moultrie brought the House the good news that the Almighty is doing a new thing by leaving him and his old-fashioned ways in charge.
This man’s hypocrisy knows no end. He says that it was out of character for him to do what he did. Firstly, he cannot get away with being his own character witness.
Picewell Forbes, the member for Central Andros, was held up as a possible character witness for the speaker. This is the same brethren who he summarily booted out of the House for two sittings for having the temerity to exercise his conscience and walk out of the chamber in support of a member of his caucus. Forbes had also earlier cast a vote of no-confidence in the speaker.
Adding insult to injury, Moultrie said he has forgiven the opposition and called on them to seek reconciliation with him. Well, monkey uncle!
The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics, Pope Francis, is fond of asking for forgiveness, including for himself. But a former archbishop of Canterbury warned in 2011 that we must not forgive too easily. The archbishop said that easy forgiveness can make the suffering that was inflicted appear to not matter.
So, we must not give the speaker a pass. It is not his place to forgive those he maligned. And if he wants forgiveness, then a good way to start is with an act of genuine contrition.
Contrition begins with the examination of your own conscience. For the faithful, simply apologizing for doing wrong is never enough. The speaker must show that he is sorrowful and he must begin to make amends.
The best act of contrition possible is for Moultrie to stop hiding behind the FNM’s gown-tail and resign!
– The Graduate