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Bannister blasts Major for not apologizing after blocking COBUS

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: May 01, 2013

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Former Education Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday lashed out at Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr. Kendal Major after he refused to apologize to members of the College of The Bahamas Union of Students (COBUS) who were denied entry to the House two weeks ago.

“With all due respect to the speaker, I thought it was a shame that he did that,” Bannister said.

“What does this teach them, that when you are in a position of authority... and you are dealing with persons who are less powerful, in this case the youth of the nation, that you are so high and mighty that you refuse to apologize to them?

“I think that was a wonderful opportunity that the speaker missed to do right by young people.”

Major spoke with students and union representatives at COB on Monday.

He said the decision to bar them was made in the interest of maintaining order and respect in Parliament.

Major said students are welcomed to attend the House, but had COBUS informed the Office of the Speaker prior to April 17, as required for groups larger than five, he may have been in a better position to assist.

Bannister, the shadow minister of education, said that statement is “nonsense”.

“The reality is they are Bahamian citizens,” he said.

“The House just debated a bill honoring Sir Randol Fawkes who is a freedom fighter in our country.”

Last week, Minister of Education, Science and Technology Jerome Fitzgerald apologized to those students, and said the incident was not a reflection of the government’s position in dealing with COBUS.

However, Major said that he is satisfied the police exercised reasonable judgement.

Outgoing COBUS President Ernesto Williams said Major’s comments were “rather unfortunate”.

Bannister said the minister and speaker are obviously contradicting each other.

“Based on what the speaker said one has to draw the conclusion that it didn’t matter who was there, that still would have happened,” he said.

“The government is arrogantly going on instead of taking these young people in and embracing their desire and interest in learning.

“The government is arrogantly treating them like they don’t exist.”

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