Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly Don Saunders said yesterday he has no regrets over his decision to name Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis and have him removed from the House on Wednesday evening.
Saunders claimed he would do the same to any MP, including Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in that situation.
“My job is to maintain and manage the affairs of the House,” he said.
“And I think my response to Mr. Davis was a reasonable and a fair one given the circumstances, and I invite anybody to look at the video … and any reasonable presiding officer who wants to maintain the decorum and the respect for the chair and the House would have maybe done what I did earlier than when I did it.
“I gave him opportunities. The sergeant at arms was at the bar for at least a minute even after I called him in. And yet he still did not respect the chair. In fact, he threw it in my face as to what I was bringing the police in there for when he knew that I was giving him … a shot above the bow.
“And he totally continued to disrespect as if he was trying to test or to show that he has no respect for the chair and I do not regret it.
“The long and short of it is that I do not regret it, and if I had to do it again tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, by any member, whether it is Mr. Brave Davis, whether it is Dr. Minnis, whether it is any member of the government or any member of the opposition or any independent member if anyone acts in that way, the same response will be had.”
The ordeal unfolded when Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin, the former minister of aviation, attempted to make a point of order. She said Saunders had reprimanded her for straying from the debate at hand, but said nothing to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar, who had not spoken at all to the insurance bills before the House, but instead spoke about a new aviation agreement between The Bahamas and the United States.
Saunders then became hesitant about allowing Hanna-Martin to proceed with her point of order, saying she was rehashing matters she already addressed during the minister’s contribution.
When Davis attempted to intervene in the exchange between Saunders and Hanna-Martin, Saunders told him that the chair was speaking.
Davis, however, said Saunders needed to “act like a chair” and refused to yield.
Saunders then shouted, “Philip Brave Davis, the member for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, is now to be escorted out of this House, Mr. Sergeant at Arms. Sergeant at Arms, please carry out your duties. The member for Cat Island is excused for the rest of the evening.”
After Saunders repeatedly instructed the sergeant at arms to remove Davis from the House, two police officers walked up to Davis and Hanna-Martin and escorted them out.
In Westminster parliaments, naming a member is a procedure that allows the speaker or deputy speaker to remove that member who is refusing to adhere to parliamentary rules of conduct.
House rules provide that when the speaker names a member, “the speaker shall forthwith put the question on a motion being made, no amendment, adjournment or debate being allowed, that the member be suspended from the service of the House”.
However, after naming Davis on Wednesday, Saunders did not put forth such a motion.
He said yesterday, however, that he would do so when the House meets again if necessary.
“I can move the motion,” he said.
“I could just suspend him from the House, and if necessary, when I come back, I’ll move the motion. But I needed order in the House immediately. And if the motion is moved and it is decided that he should be suspended for any additional period then we will deal with that … whenever we go back to Parliament.”
While Hanna-Martin felt he was being hypocritical in not criticizing D’Aguilar for speaking off topic, Saunders said the issue came up during Hanna-Martin’s contribution because she had requested more time to speak, while D’Aguilar did not.
“If you have 30 minutes to speak on a bill, and you spent 28 minutes of that time speaking on every little thing in the world that you want to speak about and then when your time is running out, you come and ask the chair to give you … additional time to speak and I already hear that you are not even speaking on the bill, I don’t have to give you the additional time,” he said.
“And I made it very clear that I was speaking to all members. And by that time there were additional members who had spoken. It just so happened that I raised that point with her because she was asking for more time when I had already given her more.”
Saunders added, “Yes, I would concede that the member for Freetown spent very little time on the debate.
“… I agree with her, but there was no need for me to chastise him because I had already made the point and other members had gotten my point.”