Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Editorial | Change of address won’t change Parliament

Published:Thursday | April 20, 2017 | 4:22 AM

That Tesha Miller, dubbed by the Jamaican police as a dangerous gang lord, has been fined a measly $100 is hardly a laughing matter.
Mr Miller was fined on Tuesday after pleading guilty to one count of making a false declaration on an immigration document.
The issue of ridiculously low fines on the books is nothing new. Indeed, the State would find that it expends hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources to prosecute cases with negligible penalties. When the breaching of immigration law is so inconsequential, such fines incentivise the breaking of statutes and engender a culture of impunity.
The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Jamaica’s legislators. Kingston Central Member of Parliament Ronald Thwaites seems to agree. Said Mr Thwaites in a report published Wednesday: “I feel ashamed. It’s obvious that we are sleeping and the officials who advise us are sleeping. I support a reform of the legislation which will allow for all penalties to be adjusted according to a fixed proportion, usually related to the inflation rate.”

NO CONFIDENCE IN LAWMAKERS

Mr Thwaites’ lament notwithstanding, we have little confidence that our lawmakers will arise from their stupor. Bluntly, Jamaica’s elected legislators are lazy and their torpidity legendary. And while they have been eager to spearhead rationalisation of the public sector to ramp up efficiency and productivity, they have been infidels of their own gospel.
Both the leaders of opposition and government business in the House of Representatives must decide whether they will captain a Parliament that wastes too much time, has too few sittings each year, and passes precious little legislation. The House is constipated. And even when legislation is passed, many months elapse before regulations are activated to give the law power.  Justice ministers shrug their shoulders and point to the constipation in the undermanned Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. But no one addresses the shortage of draughtsmen and related personnel.
Much has been made of the planned construction of an expansive and perhaps iconic Parliament building at National Heroes Park in Kingston, a minute-and-a-half’s drive from the current site, Gordon House. Controversy has focused on the Chinese being chosen by the Government to lead the project, including its design. But all the architectural aesthetics, plush offices and state-of-the-art equipment will not be truly transformative if we do not go beneath the surface.

CHANGE IN LEGISLATIVE APPETITE

More than a change in address, the Jamaican Parliament needs a change in legislative appetite. After all, that is the raison d’être of MPs’ existence – not the superficialities of attending funerals, distributing bun and cheese, or wallowing in the cash-rich Constituency Development Fund.
As an aside, the police have much to answer for regarding their handling of the prosecution of Tesha Miller since his recent deportation from The Bahamas. Mr Miller, if we are to believe the police, is the leader of one of Jamaica’s most dangerous and deadly gangs, Clansman, which wields significant power in sections of Spanish Town and has left a trail of blood in its wake. Internecine conflict has manifested itself in a battle of bullets between rival factions with shifting loyalties.
Having plastered Mr Miller’s face throughout the media as the devil incarnate, we had expected the police to have an iron-clad case to that effect, not a flimsy immigration offence. Perhaps it’s on a slow boil.