Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis will address the nation twice per year and will engage the media once per quarter at “special press conferences”, according to Press Secretary Anthony “Ace” Newbold.
Newbold made the announcement at the Office of the Prime Minister during his first press briefing as press secretary yesterday.
It has been a custom for the Bahamian press to have access to government ministers and prime ministers during public appearances.
“Once a quarter you will have an opportunity to question the prime minister on different matters,” Newbold said.
“One of the reasons Prime Minister Minnis decided to do that is to avoid as much as possible the scrum that happened at NEMA yesterday.”
He was referring to an impromptu press conference with the prime minister on Monday outside the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) headquarters.
Following a tour of NEMA, Minnis fielded questions from reporters ranging from the government’s proposed audits, to crime and the police payouts for overtime.
During yesterday’s press briefing, Newbold later apologized for his use of the word ‘scrum’.
He said the characterization might be too harsh.
Newbold pointed out that the press secretary is not intended to replace the voice of the prime minister.
“I spoke to him (Minnis) about NEMA yesterday and he said, ‘Fine, no problem. I can handle it,’” Newbold said.
“He will decide when he wants to talk to the press.
“I think he has that right and deserves to have that right.
“If you have a question that you need answered, make an appointment to sit down with him.
“If you have questions, ask me. I will find out for you.
“Again, that does not mean you are not going to speak to the prime minister.
“He will engage the press once each quarter.”
Asked whether the media access to the prime minister will be limited to scheduled press conferences, Newbold said, “He will determine that.
“But, if he is at a banquet, I would imagine he wouldn’t want to be answering questions from the press.
“And again, it is not that he does not want the press to have information for the Bahamian people.
“That’s not the idea. The protocol that we ought to observe is he is at a banquet, he is having fun.
“There is no matter of national importance or security that he has to answer a question.
“But again, he will determine that. But, I ask you to consider that anyway.”
Newbold was also asked about the budget allocation for the Office of the Press Secretary.
He said that will be determined based on the staff complement that is established.
He advised that public servants will be transferred from other government agencies, including Bahamas Information Services, to staff the new department.
Newbold was also asked how much his role will cost the government, but he said that has not yet been determined.
“There are several factors that will determine what the press secretary will cost,” he added.
According to Newbold, the press secretary is expected to speak on behalf of the prime minister on Cabinet decisions.
He will also make statements from the prime minister and potentially government ministers on matters of national importance.