Ezzard Miller officially remains Leader of the Opposition, despite a letter from all four members of the political group requesting he does not speak on their behalf.
The letter, seen by the Compass, questions Miller’s public stance in support of same-sex civil unions and highlights “concerns and challenges” within the group, but stops short of calling for him to resign.
It states, “Our Constitution and out Legislative Assembly requires that there be a Leader of the Opposition and as such we are not opposed to you remaining in the position of Leader of the Opposition if you are mindful to do so.
“However, where the general public is concerned, we are requesting that you do not speak on our behalf.
“We believe that this request is necessary to maintain our independence and the political platform we are all elected on.”
The letter highlights public statements by Miller in support of same-sex civil unions, suggesting this had caused concern among the group and among their constituents.
It is signed by Arden McLean, Alva Suckoo, Chris Saunders and Anthony Eden – the four opposition legislators who had formed a political group with Miller.
The letter, dated April 10, goes on to say, “We are asking that you do not see this letter as a reflection on your performance or efforts over the past 22 months but rather as the challenges that come with representing a diverse electorate that we serve.”
Miller acknowledged he had received the letter but characterised it as support for him to stay on as leader.
“I received the letter and it says there is no complaint against my performance,” he said. “I intend to stay on as leader until such time as the majority don’t want me.”
He said he had received stronger personal messages of support from individual members of the group.
Chris Saunders, MLA for Bodden Town West, acknowledged he had signed the letter. He said it was not a request for Miller to step down.
He said the legislators could have called directly for his resignation or written to Governor Martyn Roper asking for him to be replaced but had chosen not to do so.
He acknowledged there were issues within the group but attributed this to the fact that they were independent members working together on an issue-by-issue basis rather than as a political party.
He said he remained an independent member and while he was happy for Miller to remain in the official role of opposition leader, he said the group had highlighted concerns that collective positions should be agreed upon in advance.
“Unless we issue a statement together, then it is not coming from us as a group. I can’t give anyone a blank check to speak for me or the people I represent,” Saunders added.
The issue of same-sex unions appears to be the spark that ignited the latest leadership concerns. Saunders said Miller’s comments on the subject had caused an unnecessary distraction for the group, given that many of the members are directly opposed to same-sex unions.
But he reiterated that he was personally happy for Miller to remain as official Leader of the Opposition.
He said many of the challenges for the group sprung from the fact that this was a group of independents rather that a political party. He said this created challenges in terms of collective positions but ensured there were no passengers simply toeing the party line.
Miller’s position has been the source of speculation since the resignation of his deputy Alva Suckoo last month. Suckoo later said he had joined in a decision to ask Miller to step down and the Opposition leader had refused.
Miller addressed the rumours in a press conference earlier this month saying he would step down if he were presented with a letter signed by all four members asking him to do so.
Speaking Monday, he said the letter he had received had not made that request and had in fact indicated agreement for him to stay on as leader.
Speaker McKeeva Bush appeared to question Miller’s status as Opposition leader in the Legislative Assembly last week, pointedly referring to his as the member for North Side, rather than by his official title. Bush was censuring Miller for remarks he had made on the radio questioning the speaker’s decision not to intervene when MLA Dwayne Seymour made a remark that some have construed as homophobic, referring to the month as “Gaypril”.
Bush said Miller should have used his time on the radio to clarify his own position.
“As presiding officer for nomenclature in this assembly, I should be referring to him as Leader of the Opposition but how can I when I know he has no support to speak for the so-called Opposition, the very support that made him Leader of the Opposition. I thought he should have dealt with that.”