Around nine police officers tried to remove FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis from the House of Assembly this morning after he was ordered to leave by the Speaker but stayed in his seat.
The officers were ordered in after a motion was passed that Dr Minnis should be ‘named’ and barred from the House for two sittings.
He sat down and the Speaker ordered that he be removed. FNM members all opposed the naming except for Edison Key.
The House was suspended and live coverage went off air on ZNS.
Tribune journalists reported that they saw eight or nine officers then come in and try to get to Minnis, but he was blocked by FNM colleagues.
A scuffle appeared to break out between officers and FNM MP Richard Lightbourn, who was refusing to let Minnis leave.
FNM members pulled out signs saying ‘Democracy will not be muzzled,’ and passed them around to each other.
After a few minutes FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler Turner told the police: “Don’t touch us; don’t put your hands on us; we will leave,” and Dr Minnis left the House to hold a press conference outside.
The House was suspended for around 15 minutes. When it returned the only FNM MP present was Edison Key.
Today’s action came after House Speaker Kendal Major told Minnis in mid-July he would not be allowed to speak in the House until he withdraws claims he made about Prime Minister Perry Christie’s relationship with Lyford Cay resident and fashion mogul Peter Nygard.
When the House came back, Minnis demanded an opportunity to speak. Dr Bernard Nottage moved for the House to suspend until today, August 7.
Shortly after today’s events, Dr Minnis released a statement saying:
“The Speaker of the House requested that I withdraw certain remarks made by me in the House of Assembly on July 17 during the debate of a Bill for an Act to regulate stem cell therapy in The Bahamas.
“I advised the Speaker that I am unwilling to do so, and the Speaker has named me resulting in my not being able to speak for the remainder of the Debate on the Bill. As a consequence, the members of the FNM will also absent themselves for the period that I, as Leader of the Opposition, am not permitted to speak.
“Much was made of remarks uttered by me by a number of the members of the Government. It seems to me that they are intent on having my words interpreted by the Speaker of the House as an allegation of corruption against the Prime Minister. Indeed, until so prompted by the Member for Bains and Grant’s Town, the Speaker did not recall hearing me utter any offensive words.
“Never the less, the Speaker, eventually on July 17 ordered that my words be expunged from the records of the House.
“At the subsequent meeting of the House on July 22 my attempt to speak was not entertained by the Speaker.
“It is my duty as the Leader of the Free National Movement and as Leader of the official opposition, to explain my behavior in the House to members and supporters of my Party, and to all Bahamians who love our democracy, and cherish our democratic institutions and processes.
“Nothing that I do or say is meant to cause insult or injury to our democracy or to the House of Assembly where I am privileged to serve as a servant of the good people of Killarney and of the proud party that I am honoured to lead.
“Our parliamentary democracy precludes personal insults being exchanged between members but does permit members to express reservations and concerns when they believe that others may, in their action, inaction or association, cause harm or insult to our democracy, or bring disrepute to our country.
“My belief, and hence my words, remain as on the first day they were uttered.
“The association of the Prime Minister and a number of his cabinet colleagues with Peter Nygard has been judged by many as being most unseemly and outrageously inappropriate.
“Mr Nygard has made his special interest in stem cell therapy very publicly known. He has similarly made it known that he is a substantial financier of the Progressive Liberal Party and that he was especially interested in having the PLP returned to Government, an event which he celebrated in his now infamous video ‘Taking our Country Back’.
“Both Mr Nygard and the Prime Minister have admitted in the media that they had discussed Mr Nygard’s interest in attracting stem cell research facilities to The Bahamas as long as two years prior to the 2012 General Election while the Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition.
“I continue to believe that the cozy relationship between Mr Christie, his Government and Mr Nygard is unhealthy for our democracy.
“The same applies to the relationship between the Christie Government and the former Chairman of the Government’s stem cell Task Force, Dr Arthur Porter. As you are aware, Dr. Porter is fighting charges of fraud in relation to his former position at McGill University in Canada.
“Dr Porter was the Director of The Cancer Centre in Nassau when he was appointed to the Government’s Stem Cell Task Force in November, 2012. Dr Porter is reported to have made contributions to the PLP prior to the 2012 General Election. If allegations of Dr Porter’s financial support of the PLP prior to the 2012 General Election are true, there is even more cause for concern by the Bahamian people that the agenda of this Christie-led Government is being influenced by special interest foreign financial supporters.
“I believe that it is critically important that I make it clear to the public that the Free National Movement is not opposed to stem cell research provided all the regulations, monitoring mechanisms, and especially enforcement are convincingly and aggressively adhered to, after all we must protect the reputation and the future growth and development of The Bahamas.
“The Free National Movement fully supports responsible, ethical and moral use of science to advance medical treatment and cures for countless medical ailments and conditions. We know of and hold tremendous respect for serious studies and experiments being conducted in noted research universities and Institutions around the world including, for example, those close to home at the University of Miami.
“We do not believe that The Bahamas is ready at this time to mount the level and standard of oversight necessary for advanced stem cell research and clinical trials, and especially for the safe and reputable administration of stem cell therapies for financial gain.
“The Free National Movement is concerned about opportunities being exploited by special interest groups and individuals in stem cell therapy. And we believe that familiarity between special interest groups and political parties or governments does not bode well for open, accountable government, hence our concern with the relationship which exists between the Prime Minster, his government, Mr Nygard and Dr Porter.”