Sun | May 28, 2017

Vulnerable Parliament exposed by break-in

Published:Thursday | December 18, 2014 | 12:34 PMEdmond Campbell

THE VULNERABILITY of Parliament was exposed yesterday after lawmakers and the parliamentary staff turned up at work to discover that Gordon House - the seat of the nation's legislature - had been broken into.

The House speaker's office as well as that of the president of the Senate were ransacked and computers taken.

Both Government and Opposition senators yesterday conceded that the security arrangements at Gordon House were urgently in need of attention.

Outside of regular sittings of the House or the Senate, minimum security arrangements are in place at Parliament. However, it is not known if security personnel were at Gordon House during the break-in.

A team of police personnel from the Area 3 headquarters visited Parliament yesterday and collected information regarding the break-in.

Senator Nigel Clarke yesterday raised concern about the incident as he renewed the Opposition's call for the security arrangements at Parliament to be strengthened.

Commenting on parliamentary security, deputy president of the Senate Angella Brown Burke told The Gleaner that "from time to time" new security measures have been introduced at Parliament. She said it was in the best interest of lawmakers to have the building secured.

Minister with responsibility for Information Senator Sandrea Falconer said security concerns at the nation's Parliament have been highlighted in the past.

"It is a matter that we have spoken about for a very long time that the security of the Parliament needs to be enhanced not only for the property; the Parliament is a very important building in the administration of our country and it should be a place that is very well secured," she said.

Yesterday, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Tom Tavares-Finson, urged the Government to take immediate steps to improve the lax state of security at Gordon House.

Said Tavares-Finson: "We are pleased to see the security officers working with the police, and we are confident that no effort will be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice; however, if the Government cannot protect the highest 'court' in the land, then how can we expect them to see to the security of all Jamaicans? There is no question that this is a significant failure on the part of the Government."

The latest break-in comes a few months after thieves attempted to gain entry to the Parliament canteen. At that time, they broke a glass panel but were not able to enter the building.

Meanwhile, the staff of Parliament spent nearly 30 minutes on Duke Street in front of the building yesterday afternoon after reports of a fire in Gordon House.

Fire personnel rushed to the Parliament and carried out extensive checks before giving workers the green light to return to work.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com