BASSETERRE, St Kitts — Regional broadcasters say it is time to revisit parliamentary privilege amidst concerns that regional politicians use parliamentary privilege to say disparaging things about other people.
Clive Bacchus, the executive director of WINN FM in St Kitts, said parliamentary immunity was first established to encourage open discussions to conduct effective investigations; however, he stated that parliamentarians of the region have strayed away from the intended purpose.
“Members of parliament are breaching the privilege granted to them because the privilege is not being used for uplifting debate, they are basically slandering, people, and why I say slandering is because they are not repeating them outside the walls of parliament or the legislature,” Bacchus is quoted as saying by Observer Radio in Antigua.
A panellist on Sunday’s Big Issues programme, Bacchus said it was time to revisit the system that speaks to parliamentary privilege, especially in instances where parliamentarians have later admitted to misleading the public.
Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, made statements in parliament about Wilmoth Daniel, an opposition United Progressive Party Member of Parliament, accusing him of certain fraudulent acts.
Browne followed up with similar statements on his radio station, though he argued his comments there were not directed at Daniel.
When faced with two lawsuits from Daniel from two different attorneys, Browne made what appeared to be an apology.
Another Big Issues panellist, David Ellis, station manager at the Statcom Network of radio stations in Barbados, agreed it was time to hold parliamentarians responsible for their speech.
In admitting he did not have the complete solution to this continuing practice, Ellis said the law should be amended.
“We have a number of politicians to whom Caribbean people have been looking to for leadership and we would have expected that given all the monies that have been invested in educating people, that our politicians would set the example for the rest of the 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.