Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
PM urges MPs to avoid repeat of shameful behaviour in House
PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller yesterday demanded that the "utterly offensive episode" which unfolded in the House of Representatives last week, must never happen again.
Simpson Miller, who addressed a reflective House at the start of yesterday's sitting, said the events, which were characterised by shouting, name calling and other egregious breaches of the rules of the legislature, represented a new low in the life of the Parliament.
"If our efforts in this place are meant to drive the development of our people, to place our people on a forward track of upward mobility then discipline and respect must be the wind beneath those efforts," the prime minister said.
Simpson Miller charged members to pledge to themselves that "last week's disgraceful and bitter experience must serve as a final wake up call - a call for proper decorum in this House of Representatives".
She charged members to seek to inspire, uplift Jamaicans, arguing that the lessons to be learned from the mistakes are far more important than the mistakes themselves.
"I demand and require of all of us in this Chamber to make that most unfortunate occurrence of last week push us, drive us and propel us to choose a better way," Simpson Miller said.
In the meantime, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said the time has come for a code of conduct for parliamentarians to be crafted and implemented.
He said the people of Jamaica are expecting the highest standard of public life.
"We are on display, we are an example to the rest of Jamaica and more importantly we are an example to the young people of Jamaica. They are looking to us for leadership and what we do gives a signal to the rest of the society," Holness said.
The Opposition Leader said a binding code of conduct, which is not necessarily enshrined in the Standing Orders, would go a far way in ensuring the decorum in the House.
"In advancing that position, we on this side have established, within our rights, a small committee to begin the process of setting the standards of public life which the members on this side will be expected to maintain," Holness said.
Proceedings in the Parliament are guided by a set of written rules, with accompanying sanctions for breaches, called the Standing Orders.
Simpson Miller, in calling for behaviour change, said "sanctions are very often applied and thereafter there is no change in attitude and behaviour.
"The demand that I make is that the precepts and the principles that are necessary to be adopted and followed in this Parliament that we occupy must be taken seriously if we are to fulfil the purpose for which we were sent here," the prime minister said.
South West St Catherine MP Everald Warmington and North West St Elizabeth member J.C. Hutchinson, who had verbally abused Marshal Kevin Williams, yesterday said they have apologised to him.
Both men demonstrated disrespect to Williams after he was sent by deputy speaker Lloyd B. Smith to remove Hutchinson, whose conduct he had judged to be no longer tolerable.
Smith, under whose watch the chaos unfolded last week, also said he was sorry for improperly applying the Standing Orders which led to a walk out by the Opposition.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Michael Peart signalled that he would be tightening the latitude that he normally extends to members in the House.
"It is obvious that if Parliament is not under tight control things might go awry," Peart said.