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Speaker of the House of Assembly Welcomes Regional Parliamentarians to Conference
By Eric Rose, BIS
Jul 27, 2016 - 4:09:58 AM

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Speaker of the House of Assembly and CPA Conference Host, the Hon. Dr. Kendal Major. (BIS Photo/Raymond A. Bethel, Sr.)

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- Speaker of the House of Assembly and Conference Host the Hon. Dr. Kendal Major said that it gave him "great pleasure" to welcome each of the delegates to the Official Opening, July 25, 2016 of the 41st Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), and added that The Bahamas Branch was pleased to be serving as host to the Secretary General of the CPA the Hon. Akbar Khan and the many Delegates, spanning 19 countries.

"We are also delighted to acknowledge the presence of Observer Delegates visiting with us from the Canadian Parliament," Speaker Major said at the ceremony, held in the Grand Ballroom of Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island.

Also among those from the Bahamian Parliament present at the Opening Ceremony were Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie; various Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament; Leader of The Official Opposition the Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis;  and President of the Senate the Hon. Sharon Lady Wilson.

Speaker Major said that the Conference marks the third such continuing educational experience the Bahamas Branch has hosted during this parliamentary session.

"We believe opportunities like this auger well for the ongoing development of our institution," Speaker Major said.

"Over the ensuing five days we anticipate lively discussions on profound themes and issues that are critical to Parliamentary systems generally but to Parliamentarians in the Region more particularly."

Speaker Major pointed out that over the past two days, he attended a few sessions of the 9th Regional Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Conference.

"It was a rewarding and inspiring experience that has lifted the Woman’s Conference to a new standard," he said.  "I second the motion that the Caribbean woman is Strong, Smart and Prayerful. I congratulate the Regional CWP for a job well done."

Speaker Major noted that the Theme of this year’s Regional Conference is “Modernization: An Essential Element for the Independence of Parliament and the Deepening of Democracy".

He added that modernization has become a prominent word of the last century, as nations seek to become more relevant to the latest technological advancements and revolutionized methods of achieving growth and development.  For an institution like Parliament, changes tend to be painfully slow and sometimes frustrating, he said, adding that he must confess that that is an existence that he struggles with.

"The theme of this year’s Regional Conference is, however, another indication that the time has come for us to seriously consider changes to various aspects of our Parliamentary institutions," Speaker Major stated.  "Conferences like these encourage us to search within our respective bodies for opportunities to transform.

"In order for Parliaments to retain their relevance, innovative ways must be introduced and sustained to meet the expectations of our people."

Speaker Major pointed out that globalization and the promotion of good governance has challenged many Parliaments to initiate a modernization agenda.

"This does not involve merely the development of information and communication technology," he said.  "It also incorporates other methods of strengthening and enhancement, like administrative, institutional, procedural and even physical aspects of the institution. All of these are intended to enhance interaction with the public, and raise the quality of representation."

Speakers Major added that organisers believe the following topics chosen for this year’s Conference will bring enlightenment through frank and honest discussion: The Separation of Powers: the critical component to the proper functioning of Parliament (parliamentary autonomy, powers, hindrances, best practices); Modern Rules of Procedure for Parliament (Change, Democracy, Cultures, Relevance); The Modern Parliament and the Role of its Committees (Full time MPs, Functionality, Role, Reporting); Freedom of Information in a Modern Parliament (Privacy, Regional experiences, Privilege of MPs, Technology); and Holding the Executive Accountable – Parliament’s Prerogative (PAC, Question Time, Size of Backbench, Debating culture).

He pointed out that, on Friday, July 29, the conference culminates with the Regional Youth Parliament, where a "virtual Parliament Chamber" will be created at the site of the Conference.

"The subject for this year’s Youth Parliament will take the form of a Resolution entitled Globalization and the Sovereignty of Small Island States," Speaker Major said.  "I am certain that the voices and ideas of the young adults of our region will be beneficial to each of us.

"I implore us all to pay careful attention to our next generation Parliamentarians."

Speaker Major said that at the first Seminar in July 2012, a few ideas were proffered to drive the modernization agenda.  He said that he believes those ideas are as relevant today as ever before and perhaps also applicable to other regional member states.

He said: "Our Parliament must seek to create specific and goal oriented career paths for officers and staff members of the Parliament; remove the accounting section from the Executive Branch and enshrine the Office of Chief Clerk and establish that Officer as the Accounting Officer for the Parliament. In essence, Parliament should control its own finances.

He added that Parliament should separate the staff of the Parliament from the Public Service Commission and establish a Parliamentary Commission, which should be headed by Parliamentarians; Speaker, President of Senate, Minister of Finance, etc.

"Overhaul and upgrade the Hansard by converting our recording devices to digital and utilize real time Stenographers," he added.  "We must eliminate the cassette tape system."

Speaker Major went on to add that Parliament should remove the Parliamentary Channel from the Broadcasting Corporation and place within the exclusive domain of the Parliament.

"This would more adequately serve as an extension of the debating chamber and the precincts of Parliament," he said.  "It will also serve a tremendous public educational tool for the Parliament."

"Initiate the construction of a New Parliamentary Complex with the capacity to employ Full Time MPs," he added.  "There are more ideas, however I think you have gotten the picture."

Speaker Major said that the Regional Conference marks "a great opportunity for a meeting of the minds for regional Parliamentarians".

"I, therefore, now invite and encourage all delegates to participate fully in these deliberations and, in doing so, make a significant contribution to the development of our region," he said.

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