An “utterly unseemly” row erupted in the House of Assembly between members of the opposition and Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira yesterday over claims he breached opposition leader Philip Brave Davis’ privilege.
Davis made the claim shortly after the House resumed and the row lasted well over an hour.
“The member said some things that impute to me some dishonorable conduct in my capacity as deputy prime minister or member of the previous administration,” Davis said.
“It relates to, as he said, a developer charging his ministry $4 million for work my ministry, at the time, had valued at $300,000.”
Davis said he is not aware of any such transaction and called on the minister to produce the information.
House Speaker Halson Moultrie asked Davis if he wished to refer the matter to the Committee of Privilege or ask Ferreira to substantiate his claims. Davis opted for the later.
Ferreira then stood and said, “I’d like to quote the good member from Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador. This was during a time under the last administration where he served as deputy prime minister, the Christie/Davis administration, when they had the fire there at BAMSI and he was in this honorable House, right here.
“I think the issue was to do with whether or not there was insurance because a fire had happened and, I’m quoting you, you said, ‘I do not wish to go back into my past at all.’”
Ferreira said, “I guess you’ve changed that position. You want to go back into the past.”
But Davis stood to his feet and charged that Ferreira’s comments were “dishonorable and disgraceful”.
“This is not about BAMSI today,” Davis charged.
Members of the opposition began heckling Ferreira.
He noted that he was merely responding to Davis and added, “I could understand why the good member for Englerston said that her party is no longer dynamic or relevant.”
Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin then stood on a point order and asserted that she never said such a thing.
But Ferreira presented a Tribune article where Hanna-Martin made the statement.
Hanna-Martin accused Ferreira of putting out red herrings and said “all of us could come in here and make allegations about many of us in here”.
“If we are going to go down this road, and it is going to be deemed acceptable, then we should know because I need to go get my garbage can,” she said.
Ferreira said that when he assumed responsibility for housing, he met a subdivision underway in the Carmichael Village area.
He said work on the subdivision had been issued to a company called Priton Bahamas Ltd, with Valentine S. Grimes listed as its agent.
He noted that Priton submitted an invoice to the Ministry of the Environment and Housing in December 31, 2018 for $4 million. Yet, the Ministry of Works valued the work at around $300,000, the minister said.
He noted that the valuation was done in 2018.
Once Ferreira tabled the documents and Davis had a chance to examine them, he accused the minister of “completely misleading” the House.
“Even with the documents in front of him he was not full and frank,” Davis said.
“Mr. Prime Minister, he is a member of your government. This is what he is doing to Parliament.”
He continued, “First of all, there was a bill that was sent in by Priton for $2.19 million that was assessed by the Ministry of Works.
“It was not $4 million.
“He stood up there all day talking about $4 million. It was not $4 million. It was $2.1 million. That is what it is.”
Ferreira did not dispute Davis’ assertion.
Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest rose to his feet and said the matter really should be referred to the Committee of Privilege because “the debate we are having here is quite frankly utterly unseemly”.
The speaker then referred the matter to the Committee of Privilege.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English