Citing “irreconcilable differences” with the Free National Movement (FNM), Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller yesterday announced his decision to leave the party and become an independent — the second MP to do so in weeks.
“Two cannot walk together except they be agreed,” Miller said in the House of Assembly.
“Obviously, Mr. Speaker, our differences are irreconcilable. Mr. Speaker, the FNM will not repent and I shall not recant, and therefore, Mr. Speaker, because of my respect for organizations and institutions that I am a part of, two cannot walk except they agree. Since the differences are irreconcilable, Mr. Speaker, I am requesting that at the next sitting that I be seated among the independent row and take up my place in this House.”
In October, Centreville MP Reece Chipman also left the FNM, becoming an independent MP.
Miller made his announcement during debate on a resolution expressing confidence in Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.
The Official Opposition brought a resolution of no confidence in Minnis, accusing him of misleading the House over the government’s decision to lease Town Centre Mall — owned in part by St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette, who was a Cabinet minister at the time the lease was agreed to.
Yesterday, the governing side amended the resolution with a majority of FNM MPs getting up and praising Minnis for his leadership.
After the government brought a resolution in October 2018 seeking Parliament’s blessing for the deal, Miller, Chipman, Bains and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson and Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine rejected it.
The same FNM MPs earlier last year also voted against the government’s decision to raise value-added tax from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
Minnis fired Miller and Robinson as parliamentary secretaries as a result.
Miller yesterday again excoriated the government over the Town Centre Mall deal, calling it a corrupt arrangement.
“This day, Mr. Speaker, saddens me deeply,” he said.
“When I was fired for voting against the increase in VAT, I said to the prime minister at that time it would have hurt me more to vote against this policy than it would hurt him to fire me. The simple reason, Mr. Speaker, [is] because I do not believe in opposing leadership publicly, and let me add, especially black leadership.
“I did not become a part of this team to be known as a political dissident, but, Mr. Speaker, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ve entered this place as a free black man with my integrity intact and whenever I leave I will leave as a free black man with my integrity remaining intact.
“Mr. Speaker, sinking sand is not what I stood on when I rose to oppose the government’s lease of the Town Centre Mall owned by the member for St. Anne’s, then at the time a sitting Cabinet minister.
“I stood on principle, I stood on righteousness and that is the only solid rock to stand on. I stood opposed to the deal because it had the most offensive stench of political filth. I said it then and I’m saying it now.”
Miller said he has been persecuted over his vote, with some plotting “all manner of evil” against him.
“I was told, Mr. Speaker, that I am finished politically, that I would not receive the party’s nomination in 2022; that’s what I was told. But, Mr. Speaker, my destiny lies not in the hands of man, but in the hands of an almighty God who doesn’t sleep and doesn’t slumber and he’s writing all the time,” he added.
“Mr. Speaker, as we speak, since we have been elected, Mr. Speaker, at an alarming rate, we have lost touch with the electorate. And, Mr. Speaker, if this trajectory continues, many of us could bid this House goodbye the next time.
“It was said that I would be destroyed by the party. It’s amazing how people think. The political martyr is one who suffers political death for standing up for righteousness. Let me be a martyr. It is the greatest honor that could be bestowed upon me and if I am to be forcibly removed from the political stage, let the record show that I took my stand instinctively for righteous governance.”
Miller said his supporting vote would have been “foolishly corrupt even if the House had not been misled because it was patently wrong for a sitting Cabinet minister to enter into a contract with the government, period”.
The opposition contends that the House was misled because in the Town Centre Mall resolution, the government said Symonette did not take part in the decision to lease his mall.
However, months later, while on a ZNS radio show, Symonette revealed that the prime minister had called him directly to discuss the deal, which also included a discussion on the leasing fee.
Yesterday, Miller said, “One ought not to sit in the Cabinet at the people’s pleasure and use the opportunity to enrich one’s self through a lease contract that will be paid out of the people’s treasury.
“I did not need the member for St. Anne’s to disclose months later that he was indeed involved in intimate discussions with the prime minister regarding the lease.
“All he did was to disclose the gory details of a nasty deal. All he did was to confirm that it indeed was a corrupt deal from the moment of its conception and he knew it instinctively for one moment and then he was internally overpowered.”
In a statement yesterday, Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell said the PLP welcomes Miller’s decision.
“We hope to be able to work with him as a true man of goodwill,” Mitchell said.