Following public criticism over a verbal hiccup during her budget contribution in the House of Assembly on Thursday, Member of Parliament for MICAL Miriam Emmanuel said yesterday that she was “too excited”, but asserted that the backlash is just a part of being in the political arena.
While Emmanuel seemed to struggle throughout her speech, the MP, who chairs the Education Loan Authority (ELA), stumbled repeatedly when attempting to enunciate the figure of $7.41 million, which represented loans awarded by the ELA in Grand Bahama.
A video of the blunder went viral on social media, drawing criticism from all over the country, with many calling the incident embarrassing and questioning Emmanuel’s ability to properly represent her constituents in Parliament.
“The type of general reaction was overwhelming to see how people think and feel when you stumble or make a mistake, but be that as it may, I am in a political arena…so going forward, I will continue to make mistakes along the way,” she told The Nassau Guardian.
“And some persons may feel that I shouldn’t [make mistakes], but…I will do my best for the Bahamian people, especially for the people of MICAL who sent me to be their voice in the House.”
She added, “During my presentation to the budget communication, after calling many numbers correctly, when I got [to] the ‘659 loans worth $7.41 million were awarded in Grand Bahama’, I stumbled on the numbers.
“I do not know how it happened. Maybe I was just too excited. I could have said whatever or I will get back to it, but I felt that it was my obligation to get it right, which I did after a few tries.”
Several politicians came to Emmanuel’s defense after social media exploded with criticism and comedic jokes in reaction to the mistake. Among the most vocal of those defenders was Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands.
“So you may call me partisan,” he said in a Facebook post.
“Go ahead, I really won’t mind, but Miriam Emmanuel suffered yesterday with stage fright, nerves. What she is suffering from now is nothing short of crass, mean-spirited, unacceptable bullying.
“Carry on MICAL. I have watched you gain more confidence over time. This too shall pass.”
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd, who also came to Emmanuel’s defense, commented on Sands’ post saying that Emmanuel is a “powerful servant of God” and insisted that that is “the only thing that matters”.
The slip-up wasn’t Emmanuel’s first controversy. Last year, she faced backlash over comments she made in the House of Assembly about domestic abuse.
She suggested that there might be circumstances where it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife. She later issued an apology.
Emmanuel said yesterday that while the botched numbers were what many took away from her speech, the more important point is the amount of money owed to the government due to unpaid student loans.
“It is my opinion that the focus should not be the $7.41 million awarded, but the $100 million owed to the government by persons who received education loans that now many of whom refuse to pay,” she said.
“Many of these people work for the government, and many reside in foreign countries.
“The ELA will do whatever is legal to get the government’s money.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish