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Opposition claims parliamentary abuse - Rips Government members for using Constituency Debate to advance political agenda

Published:Thursday | September 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
Desmond McKenzie: They have used the debate as a platform to promote what they are doing in PNP constituencies they want to shore up to win.

Some Opposition members of parliament (MPs) stormed out of the House of Representatives yesterday, alleging that the Government has been using the State of the Constituency Debate to advance its political agenda, and that constituencies represented by the minority side are being starved of resources.

Desmond McKenzie, MP for West Kingston, accused the Government of using the Parliament to advance political propaganda and walked out of the Chamber of the House of Representatives.

"They have used the Parliament as a political platform," McKenzie told The Gleaner following his walk-out.

"They have used the debate as a platform to promote what they are doing in PNP constituencies they want to shore up to win," he said, adding that the majority of government presenters are either from marginal constituencies or seats they won from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the 2011 general elections.



Yesterday, McKenzie sprung to his feet when Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, who had a majority in West Central St James of 673 votes, was about to make her contribution to the debate. With the PNP emblem - the Rising Sun - and its ideological compass, the Progressive Agenda, prominently displayed on two screens in the Chamber, McKenzie said it was clear that the government member's intent is to campaign.

Everald Warmington, Karl Samuda and Mike Henry said the picture displayed by Ffolkes-Abrahams was an insult to the Parliament.

The State of the Constituency Debate, a new feature of Parliament, was instituted to provide all MPs with an opportunity to speak on matters related to their respective constituencies. The aim is for the debate to be concluded before the Cabinet considers the Budget for the next fiscal year.

Phillip Paulwell, the leader of government business in the House, defended the decision to stage the debate over the last three weeks, arguing that the Portia Simpson Miller-led Cabinet will be on retreat next week where the new Budget will be made up.

"What we will have to do now is to ensure that the recommendations are given active consideration and a full report be brought back to conclude this exercise," Paulwell said.

Andre Hylton, MP for East St Andrew, in closing the debate, said the presentation demonstrated "the solid achievements of MPs using little to do much".

"The State of the Constituency Debate has been largely successful, with more than 20 members of parliament taking advantage of the opportunity to bring to the attention of the Honourable House, issues that are affecting their constituencies," he said.

"It is our hope that the information presen-ted here will inform the budgetary process, resulting in planning that addresses national priorities even as it meets the needs of our constituencies."

But Derrick Smith, leader of opposition business, disagreed with the view that the debate was successful.

He said the fact that it was held so close to the PNP's national conference, unfortunately, coloured it.