Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Playing with Parliament - Several MPs missing sittings or turning up late when they do attend

Published:Sunday | May 14, 2017 | 5:35 AMEdmond Campbell
Members of the Opposition People's National Party walking out of a sitting of the Lower House.

He might be the prime minister with a massive portfolio, having to travel overseas to represent Jamaica on several occasions over the past year, but Andrew Holness could teach his colleagues on both sides of the aisle a thing or two about the importance of attending Parliament.

Holness went on 12 overseas trips during the period March to December 2016, but those hardly affected his obligations to the people of St Andrew West Central as he missed only six sittings of the House.

In contrast, the People’s National Party’s Ian Hayles, the member of parliament for Hanover Western, who is now serving as a lawmaker for a third term, racked up an unenviable record of missing 52 per cent of the sittings of the House for the period March 10, 2016 to March 28 this year, according to information obtained from Parliament.

Hayles was absent 26 out of 50 meetings, having missed every sitting in July, two of eight sittings in June, and attended only one of four in November.

His neighbour in the constituency of Westmoreland Eastern, Luther Buchanan, did not show up for 23 of the 50 sittings. He was absent for five of the eight meetings in June and was recorded as being present for only one of the seven sittings in October. Most MPs missed the October 4 sitting to prepare for Hurricane Matthew.

HOUSE SITTINGS

When the previous parliamentary year for the period April 7, 2015 to February 2, 2016 was examined, both Hayles and Buchanan missed a number of meetings. Hayles was absent 12 out of 41 sittings while Buchanan was missing in action in the Lower House for 17 out of the 41 sittings.

At the same time, the nation’s business conducted by the 63 lawmakers has never started on time for the period March 10, 2016 to March 28 this year, according to information obtained from Parliament. \

An examination of the start time for sittings shows that tardiness has been a characteristic of Jamaica’s legislature, which makes a mockery of the stipulation as to when the people’s business should begin, as set out by the Standing Orders or the rules of Parliament.

According to the Standing Orders, the House shall meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. With a total of 50 sittings, the earliest time recorded for the start of business is 2:10 p.m, while the latest the House has got under way is 2:56 p.m. The average time members of parliament meet to deliberate on the country’s business averaged two and a half to three hours.