In the wake of last week's walkout over what she perceived as racist remarks by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, exacerbated by sotto voce comments from the Opposition benches, Member of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew South Western Dr Angela Brown Burke has called for off-mic comments to be sanctioned in the House of Representatives.
Apologising for her "Shut up!" retort, in response to remarks from the Government's side last week, which she pointed out she was offering "under no duress", Brown Burke said Parliament required a "reset".
"We have found it far too easy to say because an individual is seated and not mic'ed their disrespectful comments should be ignored. I want to make the call for us to review that, because it should not be acceptable either — whether it's said seated or while you are on the mic. Fundamentally, how we address each other should be one of respect," the MP stated.
"References to the hue of anyone's skin, or things that might be so construed, should also not be part of what we indulge in," she insisted.
"The leader of the Opposition is a Jamaican, born in Jamaica, schooled in Jamaica. His father and himself have served the Jamaican people, and it should be acknowledged and never be torn down," she said.
The MP said her response to jeers of, "Siddung and nuh seh nuttn" from the Government benches last week was unparliamentary, but that she found remarks of "A nuh lie, him is a descendant of slave masters" unbecoming, and also interpreted them then as racist.Brown Burke was addressing the House following a response by Minister Clarke to the "Massa Mark" controversy, which has been a subject of debate since he used the term in reference to Opposition Leader Mark Golding in his closing statement in the 2023/24 Budget Debate last Tuesday.
The St Andrew South Western MP and House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple Philibert clashed after she stood on a point of order over the "Massa Mark" references from Clarke to Opposition Leader Mark Golding. The stand-off ended in Brown Burke and other Opposition members walking out of the chamber after she refused to withdraw her retort of "Shut up!" in response to remarks from the Government's side.
Brown Burke said she felt then that Clarke's comment was a racial slur, which was cemented by the follow-up remarks from the Government side.
"The comments that I heard from the benches of the Government also increased my anger, it increased my frustration with the level of incivility and disrespect that I have found far too often coming from that side. It is true that there are also times when they come from this side as well," she said. She said her response was not meant to be disrespectful to neither the Government members nor the House Speaker. "If I was not so provoked and could have contained my temper at the time, I could very easily have said, 'Would you please allow me to make my point undisturbed,' " she stated.The finance minister also provided the House with his own personal explanation of the incident, as allowed by the Standing Orders of the Houses of Parliament.