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Rules of the House ‘undemocratic,’ speaker says

Speaker of the House of Assembly Halson Moultrie yesterday railed against the rules of the House as the “greatest threat to democracy”.

Moultrie was responding to comments made by Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller.

In the House of Assembly, Miller railed against the election of Golden Gates MP Michael Foulkes as chairman of a select committee of Parliament to investigate all matters relative to the natural resources of The Bahamas, and to, among other things, “suggest the best ways to ensure that the birthright of every Bahamian is legally protected”.

While Miller said he will support Foulkes, he was “disappointed” by the move and warned that he would not let the committee be a lame duck.

The seven member committee, which met yesterday, is made up of Centreville MP Reece Chipman, Miller, Foulkes, Central and South Andros MP Picewell Forbes, Fox Hill MP Shonel Ferguson, Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira and St. Barnabas MP Shanendon Cartwright.

The vote for Foulkes as chairman was four to two. One member of the committee was absent.

It was anticipated that Chipman, who called for the select committee, would be chairman.

The speaker noted that this is a convention in the Westminster system.

However, the speaker noted that the rules of the House do allow for the committee to elect a chairman.

“I read section 21, subsection one, and in a democratic process, if you read section 22 subsection one, it says this, ‘Unless these rules otherwise provide, a committee may elect a chairman from among its members,’’’ Moultrie said.

“Now, the tradition may have been that the person who moved the committee is named as the chairman. But, the rule makes the provision for the committee to decide who the chairman is.

“The point I’m making from the chair is that that is undemocratic, no matter who is in power, because you will always have a circumstance where the majority party can determine who the chairman is by these rules.”

The speaker said there must be rules and procedures that protect rights “if we want the kind of democracy that we seek”.

“I can cite a dozen examples in this rule [book] where the minority’s or independents’ rights are infringed by these rules,” he said.

“I just thought I would mention that and hopefully encourage the rules committee to convene and to look at these rules.”

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