MPs shy away from amending rule to compel PM answering impromptu questions
With the deafening silence from the prime minister on critical national issues, tomorrow's resumption of parliamentary sittings would be a good time for Portia Simpson Miller to provide answers on the direction in which she is taking the ship of state called Jamaica.
It will be the second Tuesday of the month, and under the Standing Orders of the House, a period known as Prime Minister's Question Time is allocated on the Order of Business. Sadly, owing to the lackadaisical attitude of legislators in the House of Representatives, Simpson Miller is not bound to answer any question during Prime Minister's Question Time.
Under the Standing Orders, notice of the questions being asked of the prime minister must be given at least seven days in advance. However, with the Parliament just returning from a month-long recess, no notice of any question was given. The result is that the country is denied the opportunity of having their elected representatives ask probing questions of Simpson Miller tomorrow.
The Gavel is most disappointed that after playing to the camera in January as he sought to paint Simpson Miller as being far from nimble on her feet, Delroy Chuck, the leader of opposition business, has not moved the relevant motion to have the Standing Orders amended. In fact, we are disappointed that no member of parliament has considered it important to do so.
In the last Parliament, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding decided he would take oral questions without notice. Simpson Miller, as is her right, has said she will not be taking questions without the relevant notice given.
Phillip Paulwell, the leader of government business, has said the prime minister is not opposed to taking impromptu questions during Prime Minister's Question Time. He, however, said this will only be done if the necessary amendments are made to the Standing Orders to remove the requirement for notice.
As the Parliament enters another session, The Gavel finds it unforgivable for the Standing Orders not to have been amended in the proposed fashion. We note that outside of the grandstanding, the matter has not been raised in the House, let alone referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report. It is important to point out that the House cannot amend the Standing Orders unless the Standing Orders Committee has considered the matter.
The Gavel has no doubt that Simpson Miller, who says she does not have the gift of gab, would gladly and comfortably take the impromptu questions if she is compelled to do so by the Standing Orders.
We urge Bolt-like steps be taken with regard to the proposed amendment. In fact, Simpson Miller should instruct Paulwell to use tomorrow's sitting to move the necessary motion and have it referred to the Standing Orders Committee.
And while he is on his feet, Paulwell should honour his promise by seeking to have the Standing Orders Committee amend the Standing Orders to allow ministers of government to sit on sessional committees.
At present, there are several ministers sitting on sessional committees, which is a breach of the Standing Orders. Paulwell has given his word that he would be seeking to amend the Standing Orders, as it is the thinking of the Government that having ministers on the committee allows for greater interplay between the executive and the legislative arms of Government.
In January, Pauwell said he would seek to have the amendment done by the middle of February. It is now September, and like Prime Minister's Question Time, this and other housekeeping matters should have already been dealt with. It is a crying shame that the only matter considered by the committee is that of a dress code for members, visitors and the press.
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