April 30, 2021
HOUSE Speaker Halson Moultrie has branded a government COVID-19 testing exercise for parliamentarians and Senators Friday a "purely political exercise."
House staffers were also invited to get tested during that exercise, he told The Tribune.
In an interview Friday, Speaker Moultrie said he did not participate in the exercise because he viewed it as government attempting to “save face” over an embarrassing situation earlier this week at Parliament when he abruptly adjourned the sitting over concerns his staff were exposed to COVID-19
It came after a senior staffer tested positive for the virus.
The Speaker was incensed that the House had not been sanitised after the staffer tested positive and that other members of the staff were called out of isolation against his orders, among other issues.
“I got some inquiries yesterday from a number of members of Parliament,” he said Friday. “One had sent me a notice that appeared to have come from the government whip requesting all parliamentarians, including Senators, to attend at the Office of the Prime Minister for a testing exercise at 9am this morning (Friday).
“I was unable to respond to the inquiries at the time because I had gotten no notice of the event, but I couldn’t say if it was real or fake but at about 6pm I got a call from Cabinet office to invite me to participate in the exercise and later on at about 8:10pm I got a call from the government whip indicating that as a member of Parliament the Speaker should attend.
“I did not attend this morning because I did not need to get a free test. I was able to go and pay for my own test and I am waiting on the result, but I thought that the exercise in my estimation was all that I was seeking from the very beginning when I contacted the Prime Minister and the Leader of Government Business to have the matter resolved.”
“…I don’t think that the Speaker should participate in an exercise that appeared to be completely political exercise of damage control and saving face after facing an embarrassing situation as the former speaker puts it in Parliament on Wednesday, which needed not to have happened if the executive branch of the government and Prime Minister recognised that the legislative branch is the first arm of the government. It is a separate arm of the government, and it is not to be controlled by the executive branch.
“Once we can arrive at that recognition, we should have no difficulty. I am prepared to function as a professional person in that capacity. As a matter of fact, just two weeks ago the prime minister called the Speaker to request leave to present his housing programme and the Speaker acceded to his request and he was permitted to do so. It is not a matter of personality and egos in my estimation. It’s a matter or procedural correctness and once we perform and we act in consistency with the constitution, with the Powers and Privileges Act and with the roles of Parliament there would be no issues.”
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