Written by Erasmus Williams:
Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 15, 2018 – Regional broadcasters say it is time to revisit parliamentary privilege amidst concerns that regional politicians use parliamentary privilege to say disparaging things about people.
Clive Bacchus,the executive director of WINN FM in St Kitts, said parliamentary immunity wasfirst established to encourage open discussions to conduct effectiveinvestigations, however, he stated that parliamentarians of the region havestrayed away from the intended purpose.
“Members ofparliament are breaching the privilege granted to them because the privilege isnot being used for uplifting debate, they are basically slandering, people, andwhy I say slandering is because they are not repeating them outside the wallsof parliament or the legislature,” Bacchus is quoted as saying by ObserverRadio in Antigua.
A panellist on Sunday’sBig Issues programme on OBSERVER radio, Bacchus said it was time to revisit thesystem that speaks to parliamentary privilege, especially in instances whereparliamentarians have later admitted to misleading the public.
Gaston Browne,the prime minister, made statements about Wilmoth Daniel, the UnitedProgressive Party’s Member of Parliament for St. Phillip South, accusing him ofcertain fraudulent acts. He did so in parliament.
Browne followedup with similar statements on his radio station, though he argued his commentsthere were not directed at Daniel.
When faced withtwo lawsuits from Daniel from two different attorneys, Browne made whatappeared to be an apology.
Another BigIssues panellist, David Ellis, station manager at the Statcom Network of radiostations in Barbados, agreed it was time to hold parliamentarians responsiblefor their speech.
In admitting hedid not have the complete solution to this continuing practice, Ellis said thelaw should be amended.
“We have anumber of politicians to whom Caribbean people have been looking to for leadershipand we would have expected that given all the monies that have been invested ineducating people, that our politicians would set the example for the rest ofthe community, given the kind of responsibility that rests on their shoulders,”he said.
Ellis added that it was time to question how beneficial it is to Caribbean people to allow the continued abuse of parliamentary privilege.