An explosive screaming match erupted in the House of Assembly yesterday after House Speaker Halson Moultrie ordered that alleged comments made by Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin during its previous sitting be expunged from the record.
It came hours after Moultrie banned Hanna-Martin from yesterday’s sitting unless she wrote a formal apology for her alleged disrespect toward the speaker. That ban was later rescinded.
“I also wish to make it clear that the Parliament of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association,” the speaker said.
“Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has more than 100 members. In that association, it has been agreed by the various jurisdictions and parliaments that there are certain words and phrases that are forbidden as unparliamentary words and phrases.”
Moultrie noted five words — blackguard, lies, liar, rats and swine — that have been prohibited by the association.
“On the occasion of the 30th of June, the honorable member for Englerston uttered the words, ‘Scared rats’; that members were running like ‘scared rats,’” he said.
“Those words were audible through the ZNS broadcast. They were published all over the globe. They went out through the world and it doesn’t matter in my estimation whether you are on your feet or on your seat when it comes to the rules of procedure and the fact that in those rules the broadcast of the parliamentary proceeding is considering an official record of those proceedings.
“While on the member’s feet, the member actually uttered the words, ‘Y’all telling lies.’ On numerous occasions that was uttered and it was very audible on the broadcast tape. Those are two of the words that are banned by the parliaments throughout our jurisdictions and in our Commonwealth association.
“Accordingly, this presiding officer will expunge from the record. I’m expunging them from the record, the words ‘scared’, ‘rats’, ‘scared rats’; that is expunged from the record. ‘Lies’, ‘y’all telling lies’, is expunged from the record.”
Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP Philip Brave Davis, who serves as leader of the opposition, jumped to his feet to challenge Moultrie’s assertion.
He started by noting that he did not “concede” that Hanna-Martin had actually made the comments.
Moultrie replied, “Would you like for me to play the tape?”
Davis declined the offer.
“I am assuming, but not conceding, that the words were said,” he said.
Davis continued, “But I do know the member was [seated]. And so, what was put on the record and was, in fact, put on the record by yourself by regurgitating what was [said].
“[My] position is, Mr. Speaker, that there is no record of those words certainly on the record of the House because it was said when the member was seated. You have taken the view that whether she was seated or not it is still part of the record.”
Moultrie noted his microphone is always on.
He said it picks up any words that are “shouted across the floor”, adding that those words are subsequently broadcasted.
“They become a part of the record of the proceeding of Parliament,” the speaker said.
“The broadcast of what happened or transpired on the day of June 30, 2020, is clear that those words that I mentioned were audible and members of the [public].”
Davis rejected this explanation.
He said there are instances where other MPs in the House shout things at him as he speaks.
However, according to Davis, those comments do not become a part of the record.
“We are troubled, as opposition members, by the constant tension that exists between us and for no reason,” he said.
“Only for the simple reason that you just don’t listen.”
The speaker ordered that Davis resume his seat, noting that he was “making allegations now”.
Hanna-Martin began to hurl comments at East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest.
Turnquest responded, “I wish to waive the point of parliamentary privilege at this stage. The member for Englerston from her seat is shouting across the floor that this member from East Grand Bahama is junk.”
The Englerston MP rejected his claims.
Turnquest attempted to continue his point, however, he was interrupted by members from both sides of the aisle who began shouting at each other.
As his voice escalated, Turnquest said, “From her seat, she called this House liars. That is a fact on the record. Now, I am not here to debate whether she should be censured out or not. That is not my business. What I do have is a personal problem that for her, from her seat, to call this member garbage, junk.”
Hanna-Martin began to shout, “That is not what I said. I did not say that.”
Moultrie interjected, noting that the House was “moving on” with its proceedings.
However, Hanna-Martin stood her ground.
“Mr. Speaker, I am being misrepresented,” she said.
“I never said that. What I said was you called us junk. You said that is not unparliamentary.
“So, I said, ‘OK. Junk, garbage, would you like me to call you garbage?’ That’s what I said.”
Members of the Free National Movement (FNM) shouted back; also standing their ground.
Hanna-Martin and Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper fired back.
“You’re offended?” Cooper asked.
“It isn’t unparliamentary.”
Several MPs continued with loud, incoherent chatter on their respective sides of the aisle.
Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells, who serves as the leader of the government’s business in the House, interjected.
He asked that the House continue with its agenda for the day.
The House adjourned for a lunch recess shortly after 1 p.m.
When it resumed after 3 p.m., Moultrie asked that Hanna-Martin apologize.
Hanna-Martin refused to do so.
“It’s about the people of Englerston,” she said.
“It’s about the constituency, the demographic. It’s a diverse population and they have an expectation that I come to this Parliament and I speak on their behalf because they are facing many issues in this country right now, which are of a very serious nature. They do not expect me to come in here and to sit in this Parliament to massage egos, to say, ‘yes, yes’ to everything.
“They expect me to be a part of a dynamic process and speak on their behalf, Mr. Speaker.”