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News : Local Last Updated: Feb 9, 2018 - 10:00:46 AM

ORG Statement: Events in The House of Assembly February 7, 2018
By Organization for Responsible Governance
Feb 8, 2018 - 9:49:39 PM

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NASSAU, New Providence, (February 8, 2018) –  For the greater part of the last three weeks, The House of Assembly has been consumed with belaboring the issues surrounding comments made by the Member of Parliament for Englerston and her subsequent suspension, culminating yesterday in a debacle wherein members from both sides competed in spectacular displays of one-upmanship, leading to a litany of insults and woefully inappropriate remarks which undermined The House and the offices of those who serve it.
As civil society groups across the country anticipate important legislation due for table and/or debate, such as The Integrity Commission Bill, The Ombudsman Bill, Fiscal Responsibility Regulations and others, The Organization for Responsible Governance cannot refrain from noting that these past weeks have been a disappointing display. Political pride have now robbed the people of three weeks of debate time on the escalation of a tangential issue. Time meant for the debate and passage of essential legislation, the development of solutions, and collective work in the best interest of this nation.
Furthermore, the country will lose two additional weeks of balanced debate, as all of the opposition MPs present withdrew from proceedings and were subsequently suspended. ORG maintains its stance on the necessity of a robust Opposition in parliamentary proceedings and regrets the sequence of events, and actions on both sides, that have led to this point.
Good Governance requires rule of law, inclusiveness and equity, consensus building, accountability, and efficiency. We regret that The House has fallen short of these ideals in these past weeks. The derailment of procedure, personal attacks on private citizens and parliamentarians, endorsement of gender-based violence and other instances of lack of decorum should be beneath persons purportedly united in the goal of advancing this nation, regardless of their discrepancies political or otherwise. A commitment to the interests of the county is exhibited not just in dedication to the passage of sound laws, but in the conduct and speech of those in public life and by upholding procedures and processes that support constructive debate.  ORG urges MPs to prioritize the needs of the nation and the people and seek to focus on the important work at hand.

With regard to the allegations of political victimization, which spurred this sequence of events, it is an illustration of the urgency with which Parliament must advance its legislative agenda of bills aimed at providing recourse and transparency such as the Integrity Commission and the Ombudsman Bills. Though we have no information on the veracity of the claims at hand, political victimization has been a reality in The Bahamas for decades and is not limited to any one party. Though Parliament is not the forum to investigate and punish such claims, it is clear that a mechanism for this purpose is greatly needed. The Integrity Commission would provide a strong avenue for the combat of victimization and corruption. However, it must first pass in the now heavily delayed House of Assembly.
Lastly, This issue illuminates the need for review of Parliamentary mandates including the Rules of Procedures, Powers and Privileges and Code of Conduct - a suggestion which previous Speakers have admitted is overdue. Calls to modernize and consider regional best practices related to parliamentary procedures have been made by MPs from both sides throughout the years, especially when The Bahamas played host to the 41st Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in 2016. Issues such as ensuring the proper function of all House Committees, upholding "Opposition Day", strengthening the powers of the Public Accounts Committee and imposing fair penalties for improper behavior should all be addressed as a part of such a review.


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