Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Oct 03, 2013
Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr. Kendal Major yesterday expunged comments made in August by Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller, who named a man in connection with the 2002 murder of his son Mario Miller.
Major personally apologized to the man and said he was “disappointed” that a private citizen was “defamed” without having recourse to defend himself.
After Major expunged the comments he warned the media not to publish or broadcast Miller’s earlier statements because they would no longer be covered under parliamentary privilege.
But the comments have already been widely broadcast and published given Major’s earlier decision to leave them on the record of the House.
He said yesterday, “As a member of our community, an elected representative of a body of citizens, I completely understand the public’s outrage at the time, and I wish to register my personal displeasure as to what was said.
“It is unfortunate too that it was unchallenged by any of the members present at that time.
“I wish to extend my personal apologies to the person who was defamed and also to the general public for this unfortunate incident.”
Major said incidents like this should never take place in the House of Assembly.
“I was disappointed that a private citizen with no recourse to justice was defamed,” he said.
“As a result of this occurrence and upon reflection, I feel a moral sense of duty to make amends, notwithstanding the fact that the damage was done.
“Consequently, I do hereby order that the statement made by the honorable member for Tall Pines in respect to the highlighting of the name of the individual be expunged from the records of this House.”
However, Major’s statement in the House of Assembly yesterday was a stark contrast to comments he made to The Nassau Guardian the day after Miller spoke in Parliament.
In that earlier interview, Major said the Tall Pines MP did not violate any parliamentary rules which is why he did not caution Miller or ask him to withdraw his words.
In August, the speaker said that parliamentary privilege gives members unfettered free speech unless they make an offensive comment against another MP.
“As long as he stays within the rules of free speech as it pertains to the rules of the House, then he is within his rights as a member of Parliament to call a name of an individual although understandably it may be astonishing to the public,” Major said.
Major also said in August that it was “highly unlikely” that the man Miller named would be allowed to address the accusations from the bar of the House of Assembly if he wanted to, unless the House moved a specific motion to allow it.
“Right now, the rules don’t allow a member of the public to be invited to the bar to make a statement,” he noted.
However, the speaker said yesterday he hoped the House of Assembly would consider creating a rule that would allow citizens who are aggrieved by statements made in Parliament to have some form of redress.
In one of its recommendations to the government, the Constitutional Commission said while it did not think limitations should be placed on parliamentary privilege, citizens who are subject to unwarranted personal attacks should have the right to respond from the bar of either chamber.