Sat | Mar 17, 2018

The true purpose of the ceremonial opening of Parliament

Published:Thursday | April 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM


On Thursday April, 14, 2016, I witnessed for the first time the State Opening of Parliament. I made it a point of duty to take my 11-year-old son with me to witness this special event. He shares my interest in public personalities and military parades, so I knew he would not mind missing a few hours of classes to get another type of education.

The general activities of the uniformed persons, including the parade and the guard of honour, were predictably excellent. My son loved it. As we stood there taking photographs and pointing out various public persons of interest to him, I could tell he was inspired and pleased. Fortunately for me, my place of work is near the Parliament, so I was able to comfortably stand reasonably near to observe the whole affair. This caused me to reflect on the whole purpose of the ceremonial opening of Parliament.

As I understand it, the whole ceremony should serve to bring positive attention to the Parliament and its activities, to inspire some amount of national pride and patriotism in the minds of those who witness it, especially the children. The new security measures for our Parliament do not allow for this kind of sentimental nationalism. What is the point to the whole affair if it can only be seen on electronic and print media? How can we accommodate the children and less-than-rowdy adults to witness this grand ceremony, which should not be the exclusive preserve of politicians, their guests, other dignitaries, uniformed personnel or the lucky few who happen live and work nearby? The noticeable absence of the children from neighbouring schools and the supporters made the whole affair muted.


I know the security concerns are real and should never be compromised, however, I am sure that there could be ways to ensure that these public ceremonies remain public and serve to inspire those who wish to be. Children and other interested persons should be able to see and experience these events of national significance. Failure to make these ceremonies more accessible to the ordinary Jamaican will make them more elitist, exclusive and certainly irrelevant.

For quite a while now, there has been talk of the need for a new parliament building, and certainly, this is one issue which will need to be taken into consideration if, and when, that is to be done. For now, however, there needs to be a serious examination of how these important state occasions connect with the ordinary Jamaican. after all, the State belongs to us all, or does it?

Duane O. Harris