House Speaker At It Again

By Rogan Smith |
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House Speaker Halson Moultrie just can’t get out of his own way. After suffering a public crucifixion for his blistering attack on the media, Moultrie moved on to another target, former Golden Gates MP, Shane Gibson.

Moultrie, clearly dissatisfied with the outcome of Gibson’s bribery trial, in which the former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP was acquitted of 15 bribery counts, wanted his House colleagues and the public at large to know that while the jury may have had its say, Gibson may not have seen the end of his trials.

Gibson was accused of soliciting and accepting more than $200,000 in bribes from Jonathan Ash as a condition to expedite payments he was owed by the Christie administration. A jury unanimously acquitted him on 13 of the bribery counts. On two of the counts, the verdict was eight to one in Gibson’s favour. 

Last Wednesday in the House of Assembly, Englerston, MP Glenys Hanna-Martin told her parliamentary colleagues that her constituents asked that she express well wishes to the Gibson family on their behalf.

Hanna-Martin said some of her constituents had raised concerns about the police’s conduct throughout Gibson’s ordeal. 

“In those communities, they are on the frontline of interaction with the police. I think they understood or had a level of insight into the issues that came out of that trial,” she said.

Englerston MP, Glenys Hanna-Martin.

As she wrapped up her statement, three was a brief exchange between Hanna-Martin and Moultrie where he claimed that there is a precedent where a jury’s decision has been challenged.

Whoa, where did that come from? I believe Hanna-Martin was giving her constituents’ well wishes, not positing on whether Gibson had seen the end of his legal challenge.

“If you check criminal law, you will find that jury decisions have been questioned. It’s unusual, but it has happened. I can provide you with some precedents,” Moultrie said.

Hanna-Martin said she’d have to see the provision that challenges the jury and would “look for that.”

I, too, would like to see the provision that deals with perverse verdict or jury nullification, as it’s called in the US. I see juror challenges in the Juries Act, but I have not yet stumbled across the provision in local law that challenges the verdict. 

Moultrie is right. In general, it does happen in criminal law. But, has it happened in The Bahamas to the point where a jury’s verdict was tossed? 

Why Bring It Up?

In any event, Moultrie’s comment was unnecessary and really showed his hand. 

He was clearly bothered by the fact that Gibson had been acquitted.  Regardless of what he feels should have happened during the trial, those nine Supreme Court jurors spoke loudly and clearly.

I wonder if Moultrie would have been so willing to share precedent about jury verdict challenges had it been a former Free National Movement (FNM) MP that had been tried and acquitted. 

I’m sure most Bahamians who have been following the trial have their personal opinions as it relates to the Gibson trial, but it doesn’t matter. The trial is over now. 

The Attorney General’s Office is free to do whatever it feels it needs to do if it is dissatisfied with the outcome of the trial. 

Moultrie loves to talk, and at times, he does so in the most undignified way. He doesn’t give the appearance of one who thinks before he speaks and often allows his emotions to override sensible commentary.  

Moultrie’s Petty Behaviour Unbecoming

It’s unbecoming of a House speaker, and quite frankly comes across as petty and petulant. 

This is a man who occupies the same position that Sir Arlington Butler and Sir Clifford Darling occupied – respected individuals who respected the Speaker’s chair. 

Moultrie doesn’t appear to care about maintaining the honour of the chair he occupies. In fact, it is often he who is out of order.

He recently made headlines after ordering that a Nassau Guardian reporter’s phone be seized and any video that she recorded during a House sitting be deleted. The reporter, who was covering the House at the time, maintained that she had not taken footage in the chamber, but rather a photo of Exuma MP, I. Chester Cooper. 

Moultrie claimed that the reporter had panned her camera phone around the room. She was subsequently forced to delete the photo.

“Members of the media now equate their privilege in the Parliament with that of elected members. What is incredible about this is members take no issues with it for the time being,” he said at the time. 

Lead Them, Guide Them

In October, he launched another scathing attack on the media, taking the fourth estate to task for half an hour during a house sitting.

He later said he was prepared to “lead reporters to Jesus” if they target him.

That’s our Halson Moultrie: the spiritual advisor all Bahamian reporters need. 

Sadly, it appears no one in his party has the guts to pull him aside and correct him. If someone has, he surely isn’t listening. That’s a problem. Someone ought to make him listen. 

It’s almost as if the FNM cannot do anything with Moultrie, so they figure that keeping him stapled to the House chair is the safest bet for the party. 

I wonder if there’s precedent for removing an overly emotional Speaker. I’ll have to ask Hanna-Martin to look into that as well. 

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