Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Speaker bars MP from quizzing Holness on debushing report

Published:Wednesday | September 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Andrew Holness
Pearnel Charles
Julian Robinson
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Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles, yesterday shot down a question from Julian Robinson, member of parliament for St Andrew South East, after the lawmaker sought answers from the prime minister as to why he has not fulfilled his pledge to make a statement in the House on the contractor general's report on the controversial $600-million debushing programme in 2016.

"Prime Minister, you are not authorised by the Speaker to answer," Charles insisted, saying Robinson should submit that question at the next sitting of the Lower House.

Charles argued that Robinson's question should be relevant to the issue that the prime minister was addressing.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness had responded to questions posed by the late Member of Parliament for St Mary South East, Dr Winston Green, regarding repairs to the Junction road in his constituency.

"The prime minister has not and cannot, at this time, proceed to answer [to] any bushing programme unless it comes here before me," said Charles.

Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips accused the Speaker of "fettering" his colleague, who wanted an answer from the prime minister.

Green had tabled the question in July, asking the prime minister if he was aware of the state of disrepair of the Junction road in St Mary. He also wanted to know if there were plans to carry out repairs and what was the time frame.

Holness told his parliamentary colleagues yesterday that a contract was signed for $600 million to carry out road repairs in the parish.

"We had actually approved this expenditure by way of a Cabinet decision on the 22nd of August 2016 and it was included in this Budget long before the untimely and unfortunate passing of the member."

'Don't need to use project for political advantage'

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday said that the decision to carry out multimillion-dollar roadwork in St Mary was made "long before we contemplated a by-election in St Mary South East".

Holness sought to dispel the view that the Government had some "foreknowledge of what was going to happen" and, therefore, "arranged for the signing just at that time. That was not the case".

"We are not prophets, we are not foretelling disasters on people," Holness quipped.

Holness charged that the accusations of possible corruption in the implementation of the project are unfounded, noting that the work would be carried out with the highest level of probity.

"We don't need to use this project for any political advantage. This project is about making life easier for the people who traverse this roadway."

Julian Robinson, member of parliament for St Andrew South East, asked whether the Government was willing to subject the project to an independent oversight body.

However, the prime minister said he welcomed the Office of the Contractor General's commitment to provide scrutiny of the proposed repairs to the Junction road.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com