Hon. Alvin Smith/ Speaker of The House
By Clunis Devaney
NASSAU, Bahamas – The rules of parliament do not support the actions taken by the Opposition during the November 5 sitting of the House, House Speaker the Hon. Alvin Smith said Monday during his communication to parliament on the conduct of members in the lower chamber.
The Speaker indicated that during the November 5 meeting, the Member for Carmichael the Hon. Desmond Bannister held the floor and was to complete his contribution to the debate on the Juries Bill when Opposition Leader the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie attempted to raise a debate on an exchange which took place between himself and Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham two weeks prior.
When the Speaker ruled that Mr. Bannister should continue with his contribution, Opposition members pounded the tables and yelled, persisting such that Mr. Bannister was unable to complete his contribution and the House session was subsequently suspended following the passage of the Bill.
Mr. Smith said, “The rules are clear. There are no rules in the Manual of Procedure that will give even a semblance of support to the actions taken by the Opposition at the last meeting of this Honourable House.”
“The business of this House ought to be conducted in accordance with the rules of procedure,” the Speaker stated. “Most contentions amongst members would be avoided if members follow this simple procedure.
“The rules governing debates are designed to ensure courtesy and respect by and for members in this Honourable House. They also contribute to the dignity of the proceedings.
“I wish to admonish members to conduct themselves in accordance with the rules of the House. All of the calls for law and order in our society will ring hollow when Members of Parliament set terrible examples and blatantly defy the rules in order to disrupt the proceedings of the House,” Mr. Smith stressed.
The Speaker said the events which occurred during the last sitting of the House “have raised several issues of procedure, as well as the conduct of members in this Honourable House.”
He underscored that the business of the House “is conducted with democratic principles.”
Maintaining that a minority should never expect to be able to dictate to a majority in a democracy, Mr. Smith pointed out that this is particularly so “when their desired course of action breaches the rules of this Honourable House.”
According to the Speaker, “this is the principle that most clearly defines a democracy. Our Parliament is a democratic institution and it operates on democratic principles.”
The Speaker emphasized that the opportunity to rise on a matter of privilege was not being denied Mr. Christie, adding that Mr. Ingraham offered to accommodate Mr. Christie’s comments following the conclusion of Mr. Bannister’s contribution.
“Indeed what was being suggested by the Prime Minister,” he said, “was an accommodation to which, in all fairness, the member was not entitled. He had missed his opportunity.”
Mr. Smith pointed out Mr. Christie’s lack of entitlement at that stage based on the House rule which states that a Member must make his objection to another Member’s statement at the earliest opportunity.
“Having regard to the fact that the Rt. Hon. Leader of the Opposition had already waited two weeks before raising the matter,” he recalled, “the Chair took the view that it was reasonable to allow the mover of the motion, the Hon. Member for Carmichael, a few minutes to conclude his remarks. The Chair therefore invited the Hon. Member for Carmichael to continue.”
Mr. Smith stressed that while the rules of House provide a considerable amount of protection for members, there are very clear procedural rules that members are required to follow when claiming protection under those rules.
He urged Members to recognize the importance of obeying the rules of the House at all times.