Statement on walking out of the House Chester Cooper, Exumas and Ragged Island MP

Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper arrives at the House of Assembly to destroy the FNM Government. – FILE PHOTO (Photo by Torrell Glinton)

June 16, 2020

Today, my parliamentary colleagues and I walked out of the House of Assembly after the speaker undemocratically refused to allow me to speak on a point of privilege.

Out of courtesy, I gave notice on Monday that I wanted to speak on a Point of Privilege, outlining what I considered to be a breach by the member for Golden Gates.

This notice is attached.

My request was for the matter to be referred to the Committee on Privilege. I met with the Speaker along with the Leader of the Opposition and was promised that I would speak at 3pm today.

Instead we were ambushed by a ruling rejecting the application without hearing it and without disclosing the content of the application to the House.

Rule 37 of the Rules of Procedures of the House clearly allows a member to raise their concerns if they believe there was breach.

The Speaker refused to allow any opposition member to speak about the application or ruling.

We then left.

We will return for the Leader’s speech later today.

The fact of the matter is that the member for Golden Gates was wrong in his assertion and the speaker is wrong in his ruling.

The speaker appears to be attempting to shield the member for Golden Gates.

I respect the position of Speaker of the House, but the man who holds it today has again disrespected his own office.

Not only does he act like a pedantic and condescending bully, but he is bad for our democracy and is the worst speaker of the House since Majority Rule.

The great men and women who have held the position prior must be cringing in shame.


 Breach of Privilege 

Call for withdrawal of Golden Gates MP comments 

Chester Cooper, Exumas and Ragged Island MP 

June 15, 2020 

Mr. Speaker, 

I stand on a point of privilege. 

In this House last Thursday, the member for Golden Gates said that the statement I made, that the government of The Bahamas never took a loan before nowfrom the International Monetary Fund, was quote – “flat-out untrue, wrong and factually incorrect, undeniably” – end quote. 

He said that it is an easilyverifiable fact that the government has borrowed from the IMF before. 

Mr. Speaker, this member is, therefore, both imputingthat I am a liar and that I misled this House. 

He clearly knows not of what he speaks. 

His own minister of finance could have cleared this up for him had he bothered to ask. 

I research what I say. 

I catalogue what I say. 

Unlike some, I am careful and deliberate with my words. 

I take my obligation to the Bahamian people seriously. 

I demand he withdraw these comments in their entirety. 

The government of The Bahamas has never borrowed a single dollar from the IMF. 

And I would challenge the member for Golden Gates to prove it in this House if it is, as he said, an easilyverifiable fact. 

What the member referenced to try to paint me as a liar was a Tribune article dated Tuesday, May 26, 2020. 

It was an article he apparently read, but clearly did not understand. 

In that article, a former minister of state for finance, James Smith, was attributed, not quoted, as saying The Bahamas received “similar” financing from the IMF in 2009. 

It is important to note that Mr. Smith, whom I hold in the highest regard, was not minister of state for finance in 2009. 

The Free National Movement, the member for Golden Gates’ party, was in office at the time. 

It is interesting that he did not reach out to them to verify what he read but, again, appears to not understand. 

Let me help him, and members like him, who are so careless with my name, to understand. 

In 2009, in the wake of the global financial meltdown, the IMF provided all 189 of its member countries special drawing rights allocations, otherwise called SDRs. 

Every country, every one, had the option of converting their allocations into hard currency reserves. 

The Bahamas was allocated $114.2 million in SDRs. 

This added$178 million U.S. to the foreign reserves. In December of 2012,The Bahamas converted about $150million of theSDRs into hard currency. There were no repayment terms. 

Bythe end of 2019, the asset had shifted back to the SDRs status. 

I lay on the table the IMF’s news circular dated August 28, 2009. 

It clearly states that SDRs are interest bearing international reserve assets. 

The member might wish to acquaint himself with the difference between an asset and a loan, which is a liability. 

I repeat that this was not money borrowed for fiscal spending, as the money that will be formally borrowed through this House will be. 

This was money to allocated to all IMF members to boost their foreign currency reserves and balance of payments. 

This was extremely helpful in that it provided the Central Bank support at a time when the only alternative would have been selling off U.S. treasuries in the Central Bank’s holdings. 

Again, so I am pellucidly clear, the 2012 conversion was not a loanor any sort of borrowing to the government of The Bahamas. 

It was a balance of payment management tool accepted by the Central Bank, that did not provide any loan or any resources for expenditure to the Ministry of Finance. The member for Golden Gates is “flat out” wrong, to use his term. 

He clearly does not understand that of which he speaks. 

There was no loan. 

There was no loan resolution and no loan agreement tabled in this House that the member for Golden Gates can produce to show otherwise. 

I, again, challenge him to do so. What is happening now, is that the government of The Bahamas is applying to the IMFfor a loan for which there are defined repayment terms. 

The loan we are getting is a loan that is direct borrowing for financial support to pay bills or whatever as determined by the government. 

Our government has to demonstrate a clear need for the money and submit an application for it and pay it back on the IMF’s terms, which have yet to be tabled in this House. 

The 2009 approach offer to its members by the IMF is one that would no doubt be preferable had it been available, as opposed to the loan approach taken now. 

If the member for Golden Gates is unable to provide a previous resolution and loan agreement with the IMF to this House, then I insist he withdraw his comments about me, or that it be appropriately expunged. 

This is very serious business we are talking about in the life of our country in this debate. 

It requires a great deal of study and focus. 

If we are not going to apply that to debates in this House, then we are doing a disservice to the Bahamian people. 

We are facing an unprecedented national crisis; this is no time for clowning. 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

I trust that you will deal with this matter post haste.