Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Marshall ready to defend the Houses!

Published:Sunday | October 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM
File House Marshal Kevin Williams carries the mace during the opening of a session of Parliament

"Mr Marshal, yuh have yuh piece?," Justice Minister Mark Golding jokingly asked as the Senate prepared to sit last Friday.

That question was directed to Kevin Williams, the marshal, who had just walked into the chambers of Gordon House with a prayer book in his hand.

Williams laughed and muttered a response to the minister who declared: "When dem come in yah is you me a look fi save me!"

The light banter was in response to more serious events in Canada last Wednesday when another Kevin, Vickers this time, took out the man who opened fire in the halls of the parliament building in Ottawa after killing a soldier.

Kevin Vickers, 58, the House of Commons' Sergeant-at-Arms, was lauded by members of parliament for his role in stopping an assailant. He is already being hailed as a hero who eyewitnesses say prevented a massacre that would have been nothing short of a national catastrophe.

Back in Jamaica, in Gordon House last Friday, the focus was on Kevin Williams who served in the Jamaica Defence Force and left as a lieutenant. Over the past 12 years, he has worked with two of the nation's leading security firms.

The post of marshal to the Houses of Parliament has been upgraded to incorporate the security and emergency management for Gordon House, the committee offices, the Office of the Political Ombudsman, and the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

Asked by The Sunday Gleaner to comment on Vickers' action, Williams said he did what he thought was necessary to save the lives of others.

"Sadly, one life was lost. He holds responsibility for security there, it is squarely in his hands and he did what he had to do," said Williams.

Should Gordon House, the seat of the nation's Parliament, suffer an attack as was the case in Canada, Williams has made it clear that he too can protect legislators, staff and visitors.

"I am experienced. I have over 15 years in the security industry. I am so trained if it becomes necessary, but I will not disclose much in that light," he said.

Williams told The Sunday Gleaner that the administrators at Gordon House are cognisant of what took place in Canada which he said has brought to light the need to do some reviews of the security situation at Jamaica's Parliament.

He noted that on days when the Parliament sits, security is significantly increased at Gordon House. He said they are not overly worried about incidents occurring on the days when the House of Representatives sits as the roads are always closed off, thus limiting access to the building.

"There are some measures that we have wanted to implement in the past; it has been a little bit slow in coming. Some have been implemented and others are in the pipeline that is coming through. We are hoping to take the opportunity now to see if we can fast-track those recommendations if the resources can be made available," Williams said.

INCREASING SECURITY

He also disclosed that consideration is being given to increasing security on days when only committees are meeting and to move from ad hoc searching of visitors to mandatory searching.

"That is one of the things that we are looking at to see whether we need to go there," Williams said.

He said that currently the parliament building is not only administratively inadequate but that it is difficult to secure because of how it is designed as well as its proximity to the streets.

"This (new parliament building) is something that is necessary because the Parliament plays such an important role in governance, in balancing and keeping our economy stable and it also stands as a monument of our stability as a nation," said Williams.

Incidentally, the day Islam extremist 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau attacked the Ottawa-based Parliament, Williams had huddled with the Police High Command to review security arrangements at Gordon House.

That meeting, however, had nothing to do with Bibeau's demonstrating his rage after being denied a passport to travel to war-torn Syria, but rather due to Jamaica denying entry to another Muslim, Trinidadian Yasin Abu Bakr, a few days earlier.

"The meetings were organised from before that; from the Abu Bakr situation some concerns had been raised," said Williams.

Daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com