Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Hooligans! - House Speaker berates lawmakers for unparliamentary conduct

Published:Thursday | April 26, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Peter Phillips, opposition leader, speaking during the question period following a statement by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Pearnel Charles drew the proverbial red line in the Lower House on Tuesday by standing twice to restore order during a tumultuous sitting in which he compared the behaviour of some lawmakers to that of hooligans.

"Stop behaving as hooligans!" Charles castigated errant members of the House even as students from Rollington Town Primary, Norman Gardens Primary, Summerfield Childcare Facility, and the St Augustine Place of Safety sat in the visitors' gallery observing the proceedings.

"We are here as leaders of this country. We are embarrassing the young people who are here to see us; we are embarrassing those who are watching us; we are carrying on worse than some of who we are crying down," declared Charles as he upbraided the House.

"The people of Jamaica are not proud of this Parliament this evening," insisted Charles, who was seemingly at his wits' end as members shouted insults across the political divide.

When the proceedings descended into chaos, Charles adjourned the sitting for about 20 minutes then returned to lecture parliamentarians on their "unacceptable" conduct.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton's statement on the beleaguered Cornwall Regional Hospital set off a fiery response from Dr Dayton Campbell, who shadows the portfolio.

But it was the Portland West Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz's comments that set off a stinging verbal exchange between him and Campbell.

Vaz claimed that Campbell was "conflicted" in his remarks about the Cornwall Regional Hospital because the St Ann MP worked at a health facility in St James that would benefit from the closure of the hospital.

"It is an asinine and an illiterate person that would come up with that suggestion," Campbell retorted.

Both MPs traded insults before Vaz challenged Campbell to meet him outside the precincts of the chamber. A seemingly irritated Campbell attempted to heed the call but was restrained by his colleagues.

Questions on Tufton's statement took an unexpected twist when Leader of Government Business Karl Samuda moved a motion for questions to be suspended. However, the parliamentary Opposition insisted that it had a right to debate the motion. This debate continued for hours.

During his contribution to the debate, St Andrew Western MP Anthony Hylton lost his cool after being heckled by Deputy Leader of Government Business Everald Warmington. "Tink yuh can frighten me? Move yuh ... !"

Phillips' finger action a light-hearted moment - PNP

There are calls for Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips to apologise for showing his middle fingers to members sitting on the government benches in Parliament on Tuesday.

Phillips made reference to the number two by first showing his index and middle fingers together. The Government side signalled that he was making a symbol of the Jamaica Labour Party. Phillips quickly projected his index and little fingers before parading his middle fingers.

Yesterday, Political Ombuds-man Donna Parchment Brown told The Gleaner that she had taken an interest in the matter involving Phillips.

"Restraint is a valuable tool for every public figure. We need to appreciate that whatever we say or do will be taken at face value, and it will also be interpreted, and explanations will be found wanting," she said.

Julian Robisnon, general secretary of the opposition People's National Party, yesterday sought to explain why Phillips flipped the middle fingers.

"In joking, in representing the symbol of the JLP, he used one figure from one hand and one finger from the other. There was never any intent to offend anybody. In fact, I would say of the entire sitting, it would have been probably the most light-hearted moment of the sitting," Robinson related.

Romario Scott contributed to this story