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LETTER OF THE DAY - Increase staff to speed up drafting of legislation

Published:Wednesday | December 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM


While due care must be taken to ensure proper laws are passed, it takes way too long, in many instances, for laws to be made in Jamaica. Recall just how long it took, approximately 20 years, for our Constitution to be amended to provide for a modern Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

For many years now, we have been talking about the need for a modern building code for Jamaica. After many studies, reports and committee consideration, we are still yet to have a law in place to ensure buildings being erected on the island meet certain modern international specifications.

A flexitime labour law has been on the cards now for almost 20 years, having gone through parliamentary committees and even a White Paper stage, I believe. However, we know not how close we are to that becoming law so as to help to increase economic productivity.

An anti-smoking law has been promised for the longest while, with Health Minister Rudyard Spencer in the last Jamaica Labour Party administration even giving specific deadlines as to when such a bill would be brought to the Parliament, never once fulfilling any of his promises. His successor, Dr Fenton Ferguson, has promised that the bill will become law during his tenure. However, we have seen no forward movement to suggest such a law is on the horizon.

Workplace sexual harassment laws

Legislation to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace to protect our women and even our men, given that many of those with homosexual proclivities are becoming more brazen, have long been promised, with there not being any evidence of it becoming a reality any time soon.

Former minister with responsibility for gender affairs, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, went as far as to promise sexual-harassment legislation to come into effect in 2010. Mission unaccomplished, and her successor has seemingly not taken up the issue as a matter of interest, let alone urgency.

Our parliamentarians often justify their seeming dereliction of duties in this regard to an understaffed Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (OCPC).

Assuming arguendo, it seems the logical thing to do is to increase the staff complement of the OCPC so as to provide the human resource to more competently and efficiently draft legislation for consideration by our parliamentarians, many of whom, in any event, lack the level of sophistication necessary for legislative deliberation.