Former House chief clerk decries handling of emergency powers

“What we are seeing now from the prime minister is the corrupting influence of power,” former Chief Clerk of the House of Assembly Maurice Tynes declared yesterday as he excoriated Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in his role as the competent authority during the state of emergency Tynes believed should have ended long ago.

“The true emergency is in the House of Assembly,” Tynes said while appearing as a guest on Guardian Radio’s “The Revolution” with host Juan McCartney.

Tynes said he does not believe there is still a need for the emergency powers that were put in place in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

The powers allow the government to enforce curfews, lockdowns, the wearing of masks, social distancing and other measures deemed necessary to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus without passing legislation in Parliament.

“It’s gotten to the point now where, obviously, there are no emergencies dealing with COVID,” he said.

“The emergency may reappear after today when we start letting Americans and other foreigners into our country.

“But it seems that the continued use of the emergency powers is one of three things, I think. It’s either out of spite, out of the corrupting influence of power and control, or it may also be to do with trying to keep the crime and murder figures down.

“Now, I know there are influences on the competent authority, who he has to listen to, one being the minister of national security. But as for people’s civil liberties, no, nothing is more important to the Bahamian citizens than those freedoms.”

Tynes said one of the most pressing issues is instead within Parliament itself.

“I think the real state of emergency is our Parliament and how it is being managed,” he said.

His comments came one day after House of Assembly Speaker Halson Moultrie ordered guards to escort Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin out of the House after a screaming match erupted when the government abruptly moved to suspend proceedings.

The drama unfolded a day after a government blunder that saw the previous state of emergency, which allowed for numerous regulations to reportedly prevent the spread of COVID-19, end unintentionally.

The meeting was suspended only minutes after it began, shortly after the prime minister tabled a proclamation of emergency from the governor general that saw the new state of emergency start on Tuesday.

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis rose to speak after the prime minister, but Moultrie would not acknowledge him, and instead let Leader of Government Business in the House Renward Wells move for the House to be suspended until Monday.

Tynes said Davis should have been allowed to speak and noted that it was Moultrie’s responsibility to ensure the opposition had its say.

“One of the principles of our Westminster system is that one of the duties of the speaker is to ensure that the opposition has its say, especially in times when the numbers are so skewed in the House,” he said.

“After the government did what they had to do, if the leader of the opposition, whose position is a constitutional one, and who represents thousands of Bahamians, he ought to have been able to say what he wanted to say and ask what he wanted to ask.

“I think it’s a shame what is going on in the House of Assembly, and I think that is the real emergency right now.”

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