Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Censure him! - Parliamentary Opposition wants Samuda punished for allegedly usurping speaker’s powers

Published:Wednesday | December 12, 2018 | 12:50 AM
Paulwell

Slamming Leader of Government Business in the House, Karl Samuda, for allegedly “instructing” the clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Heather Cooke, to pull her staff from a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), both Phillip Paulwell, leader of opposition business, and PAC Chairman Mark Golding want the senior member of the executive to be censured.
 

Paulwell told a sitting of the Lower House yesterday that an appropriate resolution would be brought to Parliament to address the matter.

“That is deserving of censure, Mr Speaker,” Golding said of Samuda’s alleged action.

However, Samuda has vigorously denied the claim, arguing that he could not have instructed the clerk to halt the meeting, which was being held to discuss the auditor general’s extensive report into the operations of Petrojam and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).

“I simply advised the clerk of her own powers,” said Samuda, adding that she had indicated to him that the meeting was not properly convened.

“The clerk to the Houses told me ‘this is a state of anarchy’, because she had written to the chairman of the PAC informing him that there was no agreement by the majority of the members to have a meeting.”

Any decision at that meeting does not bind the committee, Samuda charged.

“What we witnessed here today (yesterday) is raw, unadulterated, scandalous, unworthy attempts at politicising a very serious matter,” he asserted.

However, Paulwell signalled that “an appropriate resolution will be brought here to deal with his action”.

“What is a scandal and shame,” Paulwell declared, was Samuda’s alleged action in bringing to a premature end the committee meeting.
 

DIDN’T SUMMON THEM

In his remarks, Golding said he had asked the clerk to the Houses to convene an early meeting for December 12 to discuss the auditor general’s report on Petrojam.

“At one point, there was an email sent to me saying that five members were against holding the meeting and four were in favour. The reason for that was because one of our members, Mikael Phillips, his email was overlooked,” said Golding.

He said he brought the matter to the clerk’s attention, at which point the vote was five for and five against. 

“As chairman, I had the casting vote, and I said the meeting should proceed. The meeting was properly convened,” he stressed.

Yesterday, a scheduled meeting of the Economy and Production Committee was not held, as there was no quorum. Golding told the House that government members did not show up.
He brushed aside suggestions by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the Opposition summoned technocrats from his ministry to attend the PAC meeting.

“I did not summon anybody, Mr Prime Minister,” Golding said, adding that the parliamentary mechanism ensured that technocrats were invited.

“The auditor general was present, the permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister was present, the general manager of PCJ was present, the general manager of Petrojam was present, and about 15 to 20 other executives [were present],” Golding declared.