West Hanover MP stripped of committee duties
UP TO last week, Ian Hayles was a member of three of the 13 sessional select committees of the House of Representatives.
He had membership on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), and the Internal and External Affairs Committee of the House.
The PAC and the PAAC are, without question, the crème de la creme of committees in the Lower House. The PAC conducts retroactive examination of operations of public bodies, while the latter probes whether the allocation for such bodies is sufficient for them to effectively carry out their functions. It also examines whether taxpayers' dollars are being spent properly.
Last Tuesday, House Leader Andrew Holness moved a resolution, which was approved, for Hayles' name to be removed as a member of the committees on which he sat.
We know that the House leader cannot arbitrarily ask that a member be removed from a committee. Instead, the redeployment of members of the Opposition on committees is done at the behest of the leader of opposition business.
During the massive shake-up of the opposition members on the various committees, Dr Omar Davies, the new spokesman on transport and works, was placed on the Wykeham McNeill-chaired PAAC at the expense of Hayles.
Also left without committee duties in the House are South Central St Catherine representative Sharon Hay Webster and North East St Elizabeth member Kern Spencer.
Hay Webster recently resigned from the Opposition People's National Party (PNP). She now sits as an independent MP.
Spencer has been pulled from the Human Resource and Social Development Committee.
Efficiency in question
We wonder if the Opposition, in some strange way, is trying to send a message about the efficiency of the members whose legislative duties are now confined to the full House of Representatives.
In the case of Hayles, The Gavel, while being mindful that he was never a heavyweight contributor to the committees, is left to ponder the rationale behind his removal.
Everyone is aware that his legitimacy in the House has been challenged, and he could be booted from Parliament if found to be in violation of the Constitution.
The writing appeared to have been on the wall for some time for the embattled Hayles. Recently, Portia Simpson Miller, the president of the PNP, omitted him from her spokesperson council when she announced a reshuffle two months ago.
Prior to being overlooked, Hayles was a silent, token spokesman on investment and commerce.
Perhaps, in some way, the latest move to strip Hayles of parliamentary duties is a grand telegraph that he is being told to focus on securing his West Hanover seat. Hayles is alleged to have renounced his United States citizenship after nomination day, July 7, 2007. If this is proven to be the case, he will be disqualified by the court and a by-election ordered in the constituency.
Thus far, it appears that the evidence against Hayles is overwhelming. An 'Oath of renunciation of the nationality of the United States' purportedly signed by Hayles on October 23, 2007, and a certificate of loss of US nationality, dated October 25, 2007, and approved by the US State Department on November 26, 2007, appears to suggest Hayles was an American when he was nominated.
Hayles has argued that the time for the filing of the election petition against him had expired and that the court should not hear it. He has also argued that he renounced his American citizenship long before he was nominated. The matter is set to be heard on July 21 in the Supreme Court.
The Opposition PNP is more than aware that West Hanover is shaky ground. In fact, Hayles made it to Parliament by 173 votes after he beat the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Donovan Hamilton in 2007. Ralston Anson won the seat for the PNP by 1,765 votes in 2002, and before him, Ben Clare beat his JLP opponent by 2,167 votes.
The Gavel does not expect any real change in the way Hayles operates in the House now that he has been removed from the committees. But perhaps, he has been unburdened so that he can finally show his worth as a legislator.