Minister of Health Renward Wells yesterday denied frustrating the Constituencies Commission’s attempt to complete its report.
His comments came after Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie, who serves as commission chairman, accused the government members on the commission – Wells and Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard – of frustrating the process of completing a report.
“This leader of government business in the House of Assembly has never been about holding up any documents,” Wells said.
“We’ve always followed the requisite procedures to ensure that there is no conversation, no issues coming back after we would’ve proceeded in a constitutional process and that is what we’re going through. At the end of the day, the commissioners, those who are a part of the commission will put forth our views.
“It’s interesting that the speaker chooses to identify the government members. You know, there’s an opposition member as well. There’s an opposition member as well who happens to agree. Why aren’t folks asking him?”
Article 68 of the constitution mandates the review of constituency boundaries at intervals of not more than five years. The last report is dated February 2017.
The prime minister is constitutionally mandated to lay before the House of Assembly for its approval a draft of an order by the governor general for giving effect, whether with or without modifications, to the recommendations contained in the commission’s report.
But the prime minister could legally call an election in the absence of the commission reporting, if he calls the election prior to February 2022.
Moultrie submitted a report on behalf of the commission on Friday with only his signature.
The move was condemned by the other members of the commission who called it “a clear and flagrant breach of the constitution”.
While noting that the report does not reflect the views of the majority of the commission, they promised to urge the governor general to reject it.
When asked for an update on the matter yesterday, Wells said, “The committee members are moving forward and we will continue to move forward. We will present to the governor general the views of our commissioners and that will be it.”
Asked if they will submit a separate report, he said, “At the end of the day, stay tuned.”
The report submitted by Moultrie recommended a statutory independent Constituencies Commission.
It noted that there is a need for public consultations, public sitting of the commission and the establishment of a website and/or other social media platforms.
The report stated, despite low voter count, larger islands of the southeast Bahamas should be classified as “exceptional constituencies and be made more practical for access by the elected representative”.
It stated that the option of redistribution of the electoral boundaries in New Providence, Grand Bahama and MICAL was debated.
“It was the will of the majority of commission members to recommend no change to the 39 electoral constituencies,” the report read.
“Those commissioners who disagreed with the majority’s position offered dissenting opinions, which are incorporated in this report in summary and attached in full as Annex 2 and Annex 3.”
Only Annex 2, which is Moultrie’s dissenting opinion, was attached to the document.
Moultrie recommended that four additional seats be added.
On Monday, when asked about Moultrie’s recommendation, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said, “There’s no report yet. The members of the committee have spoken and I accept what they said.”