By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press
The behavior of the FNM in what should be our honourable House of Parliament has slipped to a point where crucial matters that affect all Bahamians have taken second place to political point-scoring. There are times when they act like a bunch of jungalists, instead of paying attention to the nation’s business.
Let me reference PM Christie. In his 40 or so years of service to The Bahamas, his parliamentary behaviour has been exemplary, never mind that he was subjected to some of the most vile and vicious attacks, some even personal, from his political adversaries. He never allowed them to cause him to descend into the gutter. Bahamians will always admire him for this.
The climate in the House appears to be that of revengeful politics. If they can’t have their way, they become belligerent and disruptive.
The Speaker has had the difficult task of trying to maintain a degree of respect and dignity while members express concerns on a wide range of sensitive issues.
In order to uphold proper standards of behaviour during debate, rules are in place to prevent emotions and overheated tempers derailing expected decorum by those elected to public office.
Holding public office carries great responsibility whether one is a member of Government or the Opposition. What the electorate should expect from our Parliament is commitment from all members, while serving as a representative, to carry out their duties in a manner that gives meaning to the word honourable.
This means each member — regardless of party affiliation — should think long and hard before releasing words that demean or detract from the subject at hand, which often occurs when emotions or anger override good judgement.
This has been happening too often recently and many voters are disgusted. Some have expressed embarrassment over behaviour they find unacceptable. The public is willing to accept that heated debate on highly sensitive or partisan issues will always be a part of the Parliamentary setting and this is healthy in keeping democracy alive. However, they are not willing to accept behaviour that sends the wrong signal to younger members of our society — that at times it is okay to be rude and disrespectful.
It is doubtful whether members have that intention, but that is often the negative signal sent when they fall short of expected behaviour.
Revengeful politics is nothing new in any democracy. When one political party loses an election or is removed from office and then attempts to regain status it can involve tactics that are not always honourable.
But the public is not being served well when their main concerns revolve around waiting for the next House outburst and then being confused or dismayed by the motives for such behaviour.
We have too many major problems in The Bahamas to have Parliamentary behaviour added to the list. The public has a right to demand and expect our elected members of Parliament to maintain standards that build confidence, trust and respect, irrespective of party allegiances.
Nothing should deter the House Speaker from bringing the hammer down on anyone who behaves in a manner that violates rules that are designed to ensure proper decorum is preserved. And he has recently had cause to suspend from the House several FNM MPs for their disrespectful and despicable behavior.
Every member of Parliament should be willing to support efforts to improve behaviour while conducting the people’s business.
This could open the door to more progress in dealing with issues such as immigration, illegal drugs, jobs, education, crime and keeping an eye on the basic values that keep any society in a better state of decency, peace and harmony.
First, a little house cleaning in behaviour is needed and our House of Parliament should be leading from the front. More thought before speaking can avoid having to apologise for words that cannot be pulled back. Words once spoken cannot be retrieved, they can only be forgiven. Let us hope behaviour in the House will improve for the benefit of those who serve and for The Bahamian community during these challenging times.
A word of advice to FNM House members: Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.