Speaker must not stifle the Fourth Estate

Dear Editor,

The speaker of the House of Assembly has been making the headlines for the wrong reasons since the Free National Movement (FNM) assumed office in 2017. As the head of the second arm of government, the speaker holds a pivotal role in our parliamentary democracy and ought to uphold the highest standard in the discharge of his duties.

Regrettably, the speaker has fallen short of the expected decorum, composure and objectivity required of his office. Many Bahamians still recall his blatant attacks on members of Parliament and private citizens as he embarked on tirades during what has now become his normal outbursts. The speaker also sunk to a new low when he used the ruling of his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) predecessor as justification for obstructing the work of the Public Accounts Committee, while many cannot forget his unsolicited open invitation to another country to come and develop the southern Bahamas.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has watched the current speaker bastardize the office by displaying obvious bias and partisanship in his conduct and ruling. While he is not the first speaker to exude bias, the current speaker has taken this behavior to a new low.

It is however the recent attack on the Fourth Estate that is alarming and disturbing to the DNA and the Bahamian people. The speaker’s conduct is a direct attack on the media, freedom of the press and speech. This constitutes an affront on fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by our constitution, the supreme law of the land. We strongly condemn actions that are geared toward the embarrassment, intimidation and silencing of the media and the Bahamian people.

The Bahamas cannot be allowed to deteriorate into a dictatorship or authoritarian society due to the arrogance and ego of persons occupying positions of power in government. They must be reminded that the power rests with the people and they are servants of the people. All individuals must be treated with dignity and respect. We denounce all actions within the halls of Parliament which deny persons this common courtesy.

The DNA is disappointed that members of the governing party have refused to condemn the actions of the speaker and have chosen their political party over what is right. As usual, the prime minister is mute on this matter and his Cabinet has endorsed the speaker’s misconduct by their silence. It is simply inadequate to avoid the issue at hand under the guise of antiquated rules. This is especially concerning as the speaker had doubled down on his attacks and bullying of the media within the precincts of the House of Assembly.

We support responsible and free press and will continue to fight to ensure that The Bahamas remains a country that holds elected officials accountable and upholds the rule of law while defending the constitution of our nation. The speaker is urged to reconsider his current demeanor and work towards rehabilitating his image in line with the requirements of his office. Otherwise, he would solidify his position as the worst speaker in the parliamentary history of The Bahamas.

– Arinthia S. Komolafe, leader, Democratic National Alliance

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