Sat | Aug 19, 2017

End of an era - No more Pearts in Parliament

Published:Wednesday | February 3, 2016 | 2:00 AMDaraine Luton
Michael Peart, speaker of the House, on his last day in the chamber.
Matthew Peart takes photographs of his father's final day as speaker of the House.
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Michael Peart's young son, Matthew, beamed with excitement yesterday as the sprinkling of lawmakers who turned up for the last sitting of the House of Representatives stood one more time, in the customary manner, showing reverence as the speaker took his final walk from the chamber.

The elder Peart, 68, who has been member of parliament for South Manchester since 1993, has been speaker of the House of Representatives since 2002.

But when Parliament is dissolved this week, Peart, unlike most of the 63 members of parliament (MPs), will not be seeking re-election. He is retiring from representational politics.

"I feel lighter. The weight of Parliament is no longer on my shoulders," Peart, who was born in England and came to Jamaica at nine months old, said of his job as speaker.

He said the speaker is a lonely man in the House, especially if members get unruly.

"The speaker's job is not an easy job," he said, while adding that you have to have the trust of the members and get MPs to respect decisions, whether or not they agree with the rulings.

As the marshal laboured out of Parliament with the Mace, Peart stopped and shook hands with MPs on both sides. And when he got to the door, he slowed, turned around, waved and disappeared into the corridors.

"This sometimes raucous Parliament was a source of energy for me. I enjoyed most of it," Peart said in his parting words to the House.

He conceded that there were times he allowed too much leeway to some members and said he did so because "we don't want to have a boring Parliament".

The presence of Matthew, 13, in the gallery did not escape Dr Peter Phillips, MP for East Central St Andrew, who said Michael, too, would have visited Parliament to see his father, Ernest, in action.

"Your demitting your seat will represent, perhaps, the first time in two generations that a Peart will not be in Parliament," said Phillips.

"You are a representative of one of the great political dynasties."

Matthew, when asked by The Gleaner whether he would go into politics, gave a decisive "No!"

Michael followed in the footsteps of his father and served alongside his brother, Dean, in Parliament.

Dean served North West Manchester from 1989 to 2011.

Ernest served Western Manchester from 1959 to 1976 and North West Manchester from 1976 to 1980.

"The dynasty has come to an end. No more Pearts. These little ones now are going to go and work for some money," he quipped.

But will Peart miss being a parliamentarian?

"No, man. I decided that I was not going to run back from 2011. I knew that was my last election, so my preparation in terms of my successor and my mental state was carefully managed over the past four years," Peart said.

Peart said he believed the seeds for him becoming speaker were planted in the 1990s when Carl Marshall was the speaker of the House.

He recalled being told to "dismiss" himself from Parliament by the speaker, who opined he was responsible for some unruly behaviour.

"I wasn't giving trouble, but I bit my lip and left. I jumped into my car and was heading to Manchester and he sent to get me ... . From then, he would ask me to sit in the chair whenever he wanted a break," said Peart, who was a junior finance minister and deputy speaker before becoming speaker.

Yesterday, Leader of Government Business Phillip Paulwell led the tributes to Peart, saying: "You have served this Parliament with tremendous distinction, decor, appropriateness."

Paulwell said: "You have been even-handed in your discharge of your functions as speaker of this House."

Derrick Smith, leader of opposition business, said Peart has surprised him with the number of times he has been elected. He also lauded him for his management of the House.

"The experience that you have gained has allowed you to be an excellent speaker. It has allowed you to act in a most impartial way," Smith said.

The House of Representatives has been adjourned sine die. Parliament is to be dissolved on Friday, paving the way for the holding of the country's 17th general election on February 25.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com