Minister Miguel’s comment causes walkout
November 16, 2012

Minister Miguel’s comment causes walkout

Parliamentary members of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) walked out of the House yesterday after the Speaker of the House failed to grant a request that a statement made by the Minister of Education, Girlyn Miguel, be withdrawn.{{more}}

Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines Dr Godwin Friday, deputizing for the absent Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, who is nursing an injured shoulder, said that the day’s proceedings could not continue, and the opposition members could not remain, because the issue had gone unresolved.

The walk out occurred minutes after Speaker of the House, Hendrick Alexander, summoned Miguel and MP for Central Kingstown St Claire Leacock to his chambers to seek a resolution in relation to a comment Miguel made about Leacock while she was making congratulatory remarks yesterday.

At the time, Miguel was congratulating valedictorian at the University of the West Indies Mona campus Vincentian Keisean Stevenson on his recent academic accomplishment. As she did so, she reflected on how she accepted Stevenson into primary school and her role in his early development.

As she spoke, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves interjected from his seat, “St Clair say you useless!”

Leacock had, at a rally of the NDP, on November 8, referred to the deputy prime minister as being helpless.

“I am useful enough to save him from the jail round there. He would not have been in this Honourable House had it not been for this woman named Girlyn Miguel,” the Minister of Education said.

“But I would like to say ungratefulness is worse than the sin of witchcraft. I saved him from round there; he cried to me, I looked at him as my brother, and I had compassion Mr Speaker, but yet he wants to say things about me,” she continued.

Leacock responded saying that the Honourable Deputy Leader was suggesting that he was involved in criminal activity.

But Miguel said that that was not the case.

“Mr Speaker, I never said that… all I know there was a somebody who came to me and begged me to pardon because he was, he was caught and should have been dealt with,” she said, adding that she did what she could for Leacock at the time.

“So is there any … facts in the situation that she has described?” the Speaker of the House questioned Leacock.

“You are the manager of this House, the honourable prime minister indicated that he was alluding to me in cross talk as St Clair which in itself is out of order,” Leacock said.

“I am asking you Mr Speaker to guide and to rule this discussion and respond appropriately.”

When questioned again by Alexander as to whether or not there was any factual basis or inference for the Minister of Education to base her comment, Leacock said that he had never in his life been involved in any criminal activity nor has he had to seek refuge from anyone in Parliament.

“So you are saying that there has never been an occasion when you have gone to her crying and asking for pardon to her for anything?” Alexander asked Leacock, to which he replied that he never had such a relationship.

But Miguel again insisted that Leacock had come to seek her assistance in a matter before.

“Mr Speaker that was something I had buried, but Mr Speaker in my position that I was in at that time, the gentleman who spoke trespassed. I still want to be a bit modest here, because I did not intend to say this for the many years that I have been in this Honourable House. I have behaved well,” Miguel said.

“But Mr Speaker, for him to say something that I am helpless, I who every day of my life have been working to build up this country, Mr Speaker he came to me with tears in his eyes…he was just getting a job at VINLEC and he gave me all the details which I had not known.”

“Mr Speaker, I turned somersaults in my bed because I said I’ve got four children and I do not know when they would step out of the line of duty and because of my church upbringing I know that I must hold my brother’s hand and Mr Speaker I prayed and I asked the Heavenly Father to show me what I ought to do,” Miguel said.

According to Miguel, had it not been for her compassion, Leacock could not have been a member of the House.

“I thought of his family. I thought of the shame and disgrace it would have brought and Mr Speaker the records are still somewhere, so Mr Speaker please, I ask you that we would finish with it, but I really, really really, had to express some sorts here this morning, because I feel that all of us should in this Honourable House should learn to behave ourselves and know what we say against one another.”

The Speaker suspended the House, asking Miguel and Leacock to come to his office.

On return, The Speaker said while he did not have the facts in the case, and it came down to one member’s words against the other, and asked that Miguel formulate her comment in another manner, since she insists that something happened which could have caused the matter to go before a court of law.

However Leacock said that he could not accept what she was saying as it still implicated him of being involved in criminal activity and asked that the comment where Miguel said that she saved him from going to jail be withdrawn, however Miguel said that she did not actually use the word jail, but made a gesture and pointed in the direction of the HMS Prisons in Kingstown.

Leacock reiterated his position saying that he was never accused, charged, convicted, brought before a court and determined to be a criminal.

“So the statement that I … was saved from imprisonment is not only subjective, but way out of line,” the parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown said.

The Speaker again said it was Miguel’s word against Leacock’s and he could not make a ruling on the matter.

“Mr Speaker, the matter is unresolved,” Friday said, adding that the comment was not withdrawn. “Mr Speaker we cannot move on if the matter is unresolved we cannot stay in this Honourable House today…” he continued.

Despite the requests from the Speaker of the House to sit and let the proceedings of the House continue or else he would be escorted out, Friday said that that was not necessary and that he and the other members of the opposition would leave the House.