Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday accused House Speaker Halson Moultrie of being “bad for our democracy” after he refused to transfer an application made by Cooper to the Committee of Privilege.
“Today, my parliamentary colleagues and I walked out of the House of Assembly after the speaker undemocratically refused to allow me to speak on a point of privilege,” Cooper said in a statement.
“Out of courtesy, I gave notice on Monday that I wanted to speak on a point of privilege, outlining what I considered to be a breach by the member for Golden Gates.”
He added, “My request was for the matter to be referred to the Committee on Privilege. I met with the speaker along with the leader of the opposition and was promised that I would speak at 3 p.m. today.
“Instead we were ambushed by a ruling rejecting the application without hearing it and without disclosing the content of the application to the House.”
Cooper cited rule 37 of the Rules of Procedures of the House which “clearly allows a member to raise their concerns if they believe there was breach”.
“The speaker refused to allow any opposition member to speak about the application or ruling,” he said.
“We then left.”
Cooper accused Moultrie of “attempting to shield the member for Golden Gates”.
“I respect the position of speaker of the House, but the man who holds it today has again disrespected his own office,” he said.
“Not only does he act like a pedantic and condescending bully, but he is bad for our democracy and is the worst speaker of the House since Majority Rule.
“The great men and women who have held the position prior must be cringing in shame.”
In his application to the speaker, Cooper noted that Golden Gates MP Michael Foulkes said that Cooper was wrong when he said during his budget communication that The Bahamas had never before borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The government is seeking to borrow $252 million from the IMF in the coming months.
Foulkes said Cooper’s assertion was “flat-out untrue” and that it was an “easily verifiable fact” that the country had previously borrowed from the IMF.
“What the member referenced to try to paint me as a liar was a Tribune article dated Tuesday, May 26, 2020,” Cooper said.
“It was an article he apparently read, but clearly did not understand.
“In that article, a former minister of state for finance, James Smith, was attributed, not quoted, as saying The Bahamas received ‘similar’ financing from the IMF in 2009.
Cooper continued, “Let me help him, and members like him, who are so careless with my name, to understand.
“In 2009, in the wake of the global financial meltdown, the IMF provided all 189 of its member countries special drawing rights allocations, otherwise called SDRs.
“Every country, every one, had the option of converting their allocations into hard currency reserves.
“The Bahamas was allocated $114.2 million in SDRs.
“This added $178 million U.S. to the foreign reserves.
“In December of 2012,The Bahamas converted about $150million of the SDRs into hard currency. There were no repayment terms.
“By the end of 2019, the asset had shifted back to the SDRs status.”
Cooper pointed to an IMF news circular dated August 28, 2009, that lists the SDRs as “interest bearing international reserve assets”.
“The member might wish to acquaint himself with the difference between an asset and a loan, which is a liability,” Cooper said.
“I repeat that this was not money borrowed for fiscal spending, as the money that will be formally borrowed through this House will be.
“This was money to allocated to all IMF members to boost their foreign currency reserves and balance of payments.”
Cooper said Foulkes “clearly does not understand that of which he speaks”.
“There was no loan,” Cooper said.
“There was no loan resolution and no loan agreement tabled in this House that the member for Golden Gates can produce to show otherwise.
“If the member for Golden Gates is unable to provide a previous resolution and loan agreement with the IMF to this House, then I insist he withdraw his comments about me, or that it be appropriately expunged.”