A most ridiculous suggestion has come from Opposition Leader Andrew Holness for a code of conduct to be developed for Parliamentarians.
Holness, who has served as House Leader, made the comment last week as members of the House went into sack cloth and ashes, seeking to make amends for their disgraceful behaviour the previous week.
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 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.
The Gavel is firm in our view that there is no need for any further code of conduct. The Standing Orders already sets out the rules by which the people's business ought to be conducted. Where the Standing Orders is silent, Mays Parliamentary Practice provides sufficient guidance. Creating another code of conduct, as Holness suggests, is an unnecessary duplication. It is also an attempt to put a Band-Aid over a sore.
The behaviour of our parliamentarians is a reflection of a wider social problem. There are too many persons who do not show respect for authority; too many people who have no respect for their fellow men. In the Parliament, it is clear that MPs have varying levels of respect for each other. For instance, deputy speaker Lloyd B. Smith does not command the same respect as Speaker Michael Peart. Similarly, J.C Hutchinson has greater respect for Dr Omar Davies than he has for Raymond Pryce. Put simply, the level of respect shown by Parliamentarians to each other is dependent on how one is rated.
That must change. It is high time Parliamentarians recognise that whenever they insult colleagues, the insult extends beyond the individual to the constituency represented by the MP.
No greater benefit than standing orders
It is our unrepentant view that the creation of a code of conduct would be of no greater benefit to the Parliament than the Standing Orders. We believe that a critical step toward ensuring decent behaviour in the House is for the Speaker to tighten the latitude extended to members of the House.
Peart's observation that "if Parliament is not under tight control things might go awry" is spot on.
We have seen time and time again where a member gets up to ask a question, and very often trespasses on the latitude given by the Speaker. And instead of asking the question, makes grand statements. This, we submit, should not be allowed to happen. There is no excuse for any member to get up and make statements when they should be asking questions.
We hope the recent nasty events in the Parliament will serve as an opportunity for the entire society to reflect on the way we interact with each other. Certainly, we don't think there is any need for any values and attitudes programme or any fresh start initiative to ensure decency.
And in very much the same way, we don't believe there's the need for any special code of conduct, outside of the Standing Orders to ensure decorum in the Parliament is maintained.