Monday, Jan 21, 2019
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Cooper slams ‘disorganized’ House agenda

Chester Cooper.

Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday bemoaned the erratic nature of debates in the House of Assembly, expressing grave concern “about the disorganization of business in this House”.

Cooper said the opposition was only told Tuesday night that the Multinational Entities Financial Reporting Bill 2018 would be debated on Wednesday morning.

The bill seeks to bring the government in line with some of the concerns that led to the recent European Union blacklisting of The Bahamas. The agenda of business in the House has been sporadic over the past year, often shifting from one day to the next.

“Last week, we were told we were debating the Juries Bill,” Cooper told House Speaker Halson Moultrie about the amendment to the Juries Act, which would require unanimous jury decisions in guilty verdicts for capital murder cases, and simple majority jury decisions for verdicts in non-capital murder cases.

“I prepared a well thought-out position on the ramifications of that bill. You must remember, Mr. Speaker, you stopped me shortly after I started talking about it. Mind you, up to that morning, that is what we were told we were debating.”

That amendment has yet to come up for debate.

Cooper continued, “Yesterday morning, we were told we were debating the Anti-Terrorism Bill and an amendment to the Electricity Act. But last night we were told we are debating the Multinational Enterprises Bill 2018.”

The amendment to the Electricity Act was briefly debated yesterday; the Anti-Terrorism Bill was not.

“This is not unlike many of the last, almost, 52 weeks in this place,” Cooper said. “Haphazard debates with half-baked and unfinished legislation, as evidenced by the numerous bills that now sit in committee in this House.”

Cooper said he’s not interested in debating legislation if there’s not proper opportunity to prepare an informed contribution to it.

“Passing legislation is serious business and I have committed to my constituents to be fully prepared for the job each day I come here and not show up to pontificate or talk nonsense,” he said. “It is, therefore, incumbent upon the government to do a better job in setting its agenda.

“I appreciate that things happen and there are sometimes emergencies, but this rush from pillar to post seems to be the standard rather than the exception and it is most distressing. It really speaks to a lack of a concrete agenda. And those on the other side should know, Mr. Speaker, that the public is taking note.”

Requests for numerous select committees also remain on the House agenda, having yet come up for debate.




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