HOUSE SPEAKER Michael Peart has been contributing to the grand waste of time in the people's business.
Peart has been extremely gracious in extending latitude to members of parliament (MPs) in the House, and most legislators have not only trespassed on his generosity, but have been abusing it. Simply put, his generosity is resulting in the Parliament being a dolly house.
Under the Standing Orders of Parliament, members are allowed to ask questions of ministers who have made statements to the House. But aided and abetted by Peart, MPs have been abusing the Standing Orders, making statements when they should not have been. The end result is that very little is being done in the House of Representatives.
In the two weeks since the House has returned from the Christmas break, the vast majority of its time has been used breaching the Standing Orders.
We welcome the intervention of Karl Samuda, the member for North Central St Andrew, who stopped short of reprimanding Peart for the manner in which he has been presiding.
"You know the respect I have for you, but I want to ask you, is there a deliberate reason why you have embarked on this new approach where you have allowed 12 statements rather than questions? Is there a new approach to Question Time?" a peeved Samuda asked of the Speaker this past week.
He continued: "Because I heard members speak here as if they were in a Budget Debate and this cannot be allowed, this is the House of Parliament. We are on item three of a total of about 14 items.
"Mr Speaker, do not allow yourself to fall into the position where this House can criticise your stewardship."
Waste of time
Like he had done the previous week at the item statements by ministers, Peart allowed a flood of statements to be made by MPs.
However, as Samuda pointed out, members are only permitted to ask questions for clarification based on the statement provided by the minister.
For us, the fact that over two hours was used for these statements suggests that Peart is either falling asleep on the job or has unilaterally rewritten the Standing Orders.
Or perhaps, the Speaker, in allowing the charade was merely filling time since very little is being done in the Parliament.
It is quite amazing that although the Government is way behind on the number of bills it is seeking to have passed into law this parliamentary year, very little has been appearing on the agenda of the House.
In the first week, following its return from the Christmas break, the items considered by the House were two statements, one from Phillip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining, and another from Derrick Kellier, minister of labour and social security, on the Farm Work Programme.
Noel Arscott, minister of local government and community development,
More should be done
Last week, the agenda again was meagre. Robert Pickersgill, minister of water, land, environ-ment and climate change, made a statement on drought conditions; Roger Clarke, minister of agriculture and fisheries, answered questions which were asked by J.C. Hutchinson; and Raymond Pryce finally got the chance to open the debate on his motion to have the Throne Speech renamed the People's Speech.
Sooner than later Paulwell, the leader of Government Business, had better realise that nothing much is being done in the House. He needs the
We note that there are three critical constitutional reform bills on which debate can now commence, but the Government has not bat an eyelid at them.
We make reference to 'An Act to make provisions for the implementation of the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice, and for connected matters', 'An Act to amend the Constitution of Jamaica to provide for the replacement of appeals to Her Majesty in Council with new provisions for appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica's final appellate court; and for connected matters', and 'An Act to amend the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act'.
With Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller having moved for second reading of these bills on July 31, and the three-month waiting time which is required for constitutional bills having expired on October 28, 2012, there is no reason for the debate on them not to have started.
No wonder Peart appears to be allowing the time wasting in the House; there's nothing else for members to do.
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