by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – The Commonwealth of the Bahamas will have an early general election come September 16, 2021.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis made that announcement on August 19.
“I have advised the Governor-General to issue the writs of election, which will be held on Thursday, 16th of September 2021. We have a long tradition of peaceful elections; let us continue that proud tradition.”
He emphasised vaccination and the supply of vaccines the Bahamas has to move towards a post-COVID world during his address.
“With our new supply and you doing your part taking the shots, we are beginning the process to end the emergency phase of the pandemic. Our goal is for the Bahamas to be one of the most vaccinated Small Island Developing Countries in the World.”
The Bahamas, with an approximate population of 389,482 people, received 128,000 doses of Pfizer from the U.S., the first of three deliveries for a total expected amount of 379,000 doses in total and is expecting 40,000 Johnson and Johnson later this month.
The latest vaccination numbers in the territory show that 110,443 doses have been administered. With the vaccines expected in future, Dr Minnis said the new administration coming into power “will have decisions to make in enacting post-pandemic public health legislation. Your next government will have to make other key decisions to build on the robust economic growth started on our watch. Your next government will have to make important decisions on rebuilding and renewing a post-COVID-19 Bahamas.”
The general election was announced after parliament was officially prorogued on August 18, then dissolved one day later as proclaimed by Governor-General Cornelius A. Smith.
In his capacity as Provost Marshal, Commissioner of Police, Paul Rolle, read the three proclamations first the proroguing of, followed by the dissolving of parliament and stating the next expected date for the restart of parliament is on October 6.
Before the dissolution of the previous parliamentary sitting Speaker of the House, Dewitt Halson Moultrie reacted to the proroguing and suggested that this was done to stop open parliament as proposed by the speaker of the house, saying, “What it does is exempts all members of Parliament from participating in, and it sends a strong message to all of the members of parliament in the governing party by this action of the Prime Minister, not to participate in the open parliament. Open parliament is designed to bring interaction between the people of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the legislative branch. This is another indication of the Executive branch of government encroaching on the jurisdiction of the Legislative branch.”
As the Speaker hinted, open parliament was a new form of interaction between citizens and legislative powers that promotes parliamentary openness to ensure transparency and access to public information, accountability, citizen participation, and ethics and probity in parliamentary work.
The first open parliament was scheduled to take place on the same day that parliament was prorogued.
The Speaker said this is a blatant abuse of the powers of the prime minister’s office and a total disregard and disrespect of the constitution and the jurisdiction of the legislative branch and spoke towards the effect this has on democracy.
“What it does to democracy is, it takes away the supervisory and oversight capacity of the Legislative branch. We are hearing words now in our politics of corruption, accountability, transparency, and the reason why we [hear] those ways so frequently is because the Executive branch is answerable to nobody. They’re not answerable to anyone. They have the majority of the parliament; in terms of the members of the executive, when they walk into this parliament, they have sufficient votes to out-vote the opposition and the backbench combined. [Parliament] has become a rubber stamp. The initiative of the speaker has always been to make the parliament answerable to the people. We just tabled an Auditor General’s report recently, where the executive branch or the cabinet is refusing to give even the auditor information. That cannot be tolerated in an effective democracy.”
The Speaker believed that Prime Minister, Dr Hubert Minnis, had no intention of going back to parliament, hinting at an early election in the country.
“But I don’t think he has any intention to come back to Parliament because parliament is the people’s house, where the executive branch of the government, including the Prime Minister, will be scrutinised, and he knows that he has an independent speaker in place, who will see that that is done on behalf of the people.”
Eye Witness News in the Bahamas has a reaction from the Bahamian people calling for change, representations and accountability.