Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Relying on IMF goodwill is bad governance

Published:Monday | September 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM
South West St Catherine MP Everald Warmington
Lloyd B Smith
Hylton
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THE Government is blaming Everald Warmington's intemperate behaviour in the House of Representatives last week for its failure to table the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Bill.

The bill, which has a September 30 passage date under Jamaica's arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), seeks to repeal the existing Bankruptcy Act and create new provisions to govern the regulation of bankruptcy and insolvency in Jamaica.

Had Warmington not disregarded the Standing Orders of the House, the Government said, the bill would have been tabled. However, that does not cure the mischief that the situation brings.

Not only would the Government still miss the September 30 deadline agreed with the IMF, it would make a mockery of the Parliamentary process if the bill was rushed through the House.

Let us recall that the bill was tabled in Parliament in December 2013 and sent to a joint-select committee for consideration. And in its last correspondence to the IMF, sent on September 9, the Government said "actions toward parliamentary passage of an Insolvency Act are proceeding as planned".

"The Act is expected to be passed in September 2014, and enabling regulations will be in place by October 2014."

It is now clear that Jamaica either misled the IMF or was overly ambitious about passing a bill which has over 100 amendments. Here it is that the IMF first extended the deadline for the passage of the bill from the end of July to the end of September, and the Government has not even commenced debate on the bill.

RELYING ON IMF

No doubt the Government will be relying on the IMF for its continued generosity, while at the same time abuse the accommodation provided by the Opposition by seeking to rush the bill through the Parliament.

The Gavel would not be surprised if Industry Minister Anthony Hylton, when he turns up in the House tomorrow, seeks to ensure its passage the same day. This is despite the fact that the bill will bear very little resemblance to the one tabled in December because of the 133 pages of amendments that are to be made to the complex legislation.

Having sent the bill to a joint-select committee of Parliament, the bill was significantly altered to the point that even a name change is being recommended. There is hardly a clause for which change has not been suggested. Now, considering the far-reaching nature of the bill, it would be very unfair if MPs are required to debate this 'new' document and vote on it in one afternoon.

In fact, The Gavel would not be disappointed if the parliamentary Opposition, on a point of principle, refuse to lend its support to the passing on the bill on Tuesday. And this has nothing to do with being anti-Jamaican or an enemy of the state.

Parliamentarians returned from the summer break three weeks ago; the special select committee report on the bill was tabled in the Senate on September 12, and the IMF deadline is tomorrow. With the Senate not scheduled to meet until October 3, it is just not possible for the deadline to be met.

On the matter of Warmington breaching the Standing Order, which he knows, perhaps more than any other parliamentarian, one wonders why deputy speaker Lloyd B. Smith, who was presiding, did not suspend him from the sitting.

While contributing to the debate on the Criminal Record (Rehabilitation of Offenders Amendment) Act, Warmington made some rather inappropriate comments about the role of police personnel on duty at the Barnett Street Police Station in Montego Bay, St James, where Mario Deane was beaten.

Perhaps seeking to hop on to the Deane human rights bandwagon, Warmington charged that the police beat Deane, resulting in his death, and sought to pin the crime on two prisoners. Warmington ignored both good sense, good order, and took advantage of a weak Smith.

The Standing Order - Section 35(2) - clearly states that "reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might, in the opinion of the chair, prejudice the interests of parties thereto".

Smith, having failed in his attempt to get Warmington to respect the House rules, used a shotgun to kill a fly. He adjourned the business of the House when instead he should have ejected the out-of-order Warmington. In so doing, Smith found a way not to deal with the issue of Warmington's behaviour. And I very much suspect why. He is afraid of Warmington, and thus, it is easier to hide behind an adjournment than a suspension.

The fact that he erred two years ago, when he ordered the marshal to remove J.C. Hutchinson from the House, and was reprimanded and 'overruled' by Warmington, is clearly fresh in Smith's head. It is time he buried that ghost.

thegavel@gleanerjm.com