Two days after House of Assembly Speaker Halson Moultrie abruptly adjourned the House after accusing the government of disrespecting his authority, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, responding to the ordeal, said he had more important things to worry about.
“I didn’t even think about it because I’m more concerned with getting vaccinations out to the general populace,” said Minnis on Friday in response to a reporter’s question following the opening of a new passport office on Eleuthera.
“I’m more concerned with saving lives and livelihoods. I’m more concerned with getting our economy back and running and having our populace working and having more tourists come and moving the stress on travel and the cost of travel through The Bahamas.
“That’s more concerning to me.”
Asked if he had any response to Moultrie saying he was willing to “go to war” over the matter of the independence of Parliament, Minnis continued: “I said what is more concerning to me.
“You maintaining your job is more concerning to me. The general populace maintaining their jobs and returning back to work is more concerning to me.”
Last Wednesday, Moultrie berated the executive, claiming the executive insisted on meeting in the House and ignored the safety measures he suggested be implemented, after the clerk of the House tested positive for COVID-19 a day earlier.
Under the established convention, the House of Assembly has to meet on a set date after being adjourned or suspended.
The expectation on Wednesday was that the deputy speaker, Don Saunders, would be in the chair as Moultrie had said on Tuesday he planned to go into quarantine. He also said the House staff would go into quarantine.
Moultrie, however, said that questions to Minnis and Leader of Government Business Renward Wells on how the House should proceed went unanswered.
The speaker also said a key staff member, Asharan Lightbourne, had been ordered to return to work on Wednesday. The suggestion was that the order was handed down by someone in the executive.
He said the staffers were not able to be tested at a government clinic and that efforts to have the government pay for private testing were unsuccessful. He also noted that the House of Assembly had not been sanitized.
The Nassau Guardian understands that Minnis had plans to speak in Parliament on Wednesday. However, he never got the opportunity.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper later condemned the government over its handling of the situation, calling it “reckless” and thoughtless for Parliament to have met.
While MPs and House staffers were invited to the Office of the Prime Minister for free COVID testing on Friday, Moultrie said the move was a “political exercise of damage control and saving face”.
He noted that he had only been invited to the exercise late Thursday evening.
Moultrie resigned from the FNM in February after repeatedly petitioning for the independence of the legislative branch. He also said that he believes the House speaker should be an independent member.