By Gary Spaulding
"Ignorance is not so damnable, but when it seeks to prescribe pills, it is dangerous"
Tuesday's sitting of the House of Representatives took on a new dimension in the art of idiocy as the spectre of insanity had a haunting effect on some members.
At first glance, the antics in the chamber appeared to be a burlesque version of its weekly sittings where ear-splitting inanities parade as witty exchanges.
But this time around, there was no method to the 'madness', and ignorance was elevated to new levels and engulfed all present in the parliamentary chamber - seemingly.
Two standing orders (rules) were vigorously violated during the question-and-answer session, when Opposition Member J.C. Hutchinson took on his nemesis, Roger Clarke - but that is hardly unusual at sittings.
Sparks were fuelled by a fiery exchange as some members stood at the same time and gesticulated venomously at each other, in breach of two rules.
Hollering at each other under the guise of sotto voce comments has become an art form in Parliament.
All too often, these transgressions are ignored by the chair.
These commonplace contraventions would have, as is customary, slipped by had Deputy Speaker Lloyd B. Smith not been so determined to grab the spotlight by fouling up, big time.
At one stage, during an animated exchange involving Robert Pickersgill, Raymond Pryce, Everald Warmington and Hutchinson, et al, Smith was seen standing and talking instead of sitting calmly above the tempest as he presided over the activities of the House.
Hutchinson might not have been aware of how 'ignorant' he was being (based on his repeated pronouncements during a verbal tussle with Pryce: "Don't mek mi get ignorant"), but many of his colleagues seemed to have readily embraced that trait as well.
Parliamentary decorum was further eroded when Hutchinson embraced the opportunity to sink to a new low - below the bottom of the mackerel barrel - when he characterised a fellow Parliamentarian as a "fish". But then again, this should not have come as a surprise as unparliamentary language has become commonplace.
The deputy speaker, a journalist and commentator on current-affairs issues in a not-too-distant life, seemed utterly out of his depth as it relates to his more current mandate.
As the verbal melee reached ludicrous proportions, it was none other than Smith, the deputy speaker who, in direct contravention of the standing orders, instructed the marshall of the House to evict the irate member.
In so doing, Smith brought the level of infringements and breaches of the standing orders of Parliament to a new high (or low - you choose).
The hapless marshall, an ex-army man, seemingly eager to please in his new job, quickly found his way to Hutchinson's seat, but was unceremoniously upbraided by Warmington and other vociferous opposition members, before he was quietly escorted away.
Remarkably, the clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Heather Cooke, and her team comprising a deputy clerk and an assistant clerk, were in the chamber at the time of the grand fiasco, but none sought to guide Smith.
The last time (to my memory) that a member was suspended from the chamber by a speaker was in 1992. Smith would do well to take a leaf from the book of former Speaker of the House Headley Cunningham, who had no need for the then marshall when he issued the order.
Former Member of Parliament for East Central St Catherine K.D. Knight was, at the time, excoriated by then Speaker Cunningham in a similarly noisy session of Parliament 20 years ago.
Manley Bowen, a former parliamentarian, rose on a point of order, but was cut short by Cunningham, which annoyed other government members.
Knight spun in his seat to address a colleague behind him and said repeatedly in authentic sotto voce style, "I don't believe it."
The speaker bellowed at Knight: "Don't turn your back on the chair!"
Knight rose from his seat in protest, but the irate Cunningham sent the senior government minister packing. At the next sitting, apologies were tendered.
One of the causes of the chronic parliamentary lunacy is the wanton disregard that parliamentarians place on the post of deputy speaker.
In the midst of the craziness that sometimes bedevils Parliament, the unmistakable signs are that too many members are not remotely interested in the activities or procedures of Parliament.
There is just no end in sight to the madness.
Gary Spaulding is a senior parlia-mentary and political reporter. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.