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PLP insists Senate president conflicted

Katherine Forbes-Smith.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is accusing Senate President Kay Forbes-Smith of being in a conflicted position in serving as hurricane relief coordinator on Grand Bahama and presiding over debate in the Upper Chamber on hurricane-related legislation.

“Ultimately, she should decide whether she is fish or fowl: Senate president and guardian of the legislative branch of government or a member of the executive of the country. She must not serve two masters,” PLP Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell said in a statement yesterday.

But Forbes-Smith told The Nassau Guardian, “The prime minister asked me to head up NEMA (the National Emergency Management Agency) at a time in Grand Bahama when people were suffering and he felt all hands needed to be on deck and if another Category 5 storm hit the country and I can volunteer my services, I would do it again.”

Asked if she felt conflicted, she said she had nothing else to add.

In his statement, Mitchell said, “On Thursday November 7, 2019, I received a two line communication from the president of the Senate in response to a letter written on behalf of the Progressive Liberal Party dated October 24, 2019.

“The PLP’s letter raised inter alia the fact that a debate on hurricane relief was about to occur in the Senate and given her role as one of the coordinators of hurricane relief in Grand Bahama directly answerable to a minister of the government, she was in a position of a conflict between her role as presiding officer of the Senate and that of a member of the executive.”

Mitchell added, “It was suggested that at the very least, she should not have presided over the debate last week, given her dual role.

“The response from the president when the matter was raised in the Senate last week was studied silence. Her response by letter was tardy and came some weeks after the delivery of the PLP’s letter. It failed to deal with the substantive issues raised. The president simply said that the contents were acknowledged and noted. That response was dismissive.

“Another such debate comes up this week when another bill on hurricane relief comes up for first reading and debate. The president of the Senate again has an opportunity to protect the integrity of her office and that of the Senate as an institution. She should not preside over any debate on hurricane relief.”

The government has brought several pieces of legislation in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, including a mandatory evacuation bill and a bill to waive fees for storm victims replacing documents they lost in the storm.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on September 11 that Forbes-Smith will coordinate relief efforts on Grand Bahama.

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