Parliament's internship programme returns
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE PARLIAMENTARY internship programme, which ended in 2012, is to be resumed.
The programme, which is an initiative between the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Parliament, will see graduate students providing research services for parliamentarians.
Dr Lloyd George Waller, head of the Department of Government at the UWI, Mona, said the collaboration represents an attempt by the department to find ways in which it can help to enhance good governance across the country.
Waller said the internship programme was one of three major initiatives within the Department of Government, adding that at the undergraduate level, there was a group of students who would go into the high schools to engage students about governance.
"The new thrust of the department is to see how we can contribute to national develop-ment, specifically, enhancing good governance," he said.
Under the programme, 10 graduate students with strong interpersonal, writing, and research skills will be assigned to work with parliamentarians on motions, bills, papers, and resolutions before the legislature.
"Information is a very important component of any form of policy, and the Department of Government is committed to providing the Government of Jamaica, through our parliamentary internship programme, with the capacity to enrich the process of policy-making and discourse," Waller said.
The Houses of Parliament/UWI Parliamentary Internship Programme was born out of the 2003 Parliamentary Salaries Review Committee's report, which recommended the establishment of such an internship programme to strengthen the Parliament's research capabilities.
During the initial phase of the programme, which ran from 2006 to 2012, seven interns produced more than 40 pieces of research for the Parliament.
Heather Cooke, clerk to the Houses of Parliament, said the interns would be paid $1,000 per hour for attendance at committee meetings. She also said they would be paid $3,000 per hour for research undertaken.
"Any research done will be supervised by the University of West Indies for quality control, for content, and to ensure that the time indicated for research is reasonable," she said.
The clerk noted that over the years, the Parliament has tried to strengthen its research capacity.
"With the help of the World Bank, we have been able to provide some support to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee, but other committees also require research capacity," she said.
Government backbencher Fitz Jackson said the return of the internship programme, which is being launched today, is something that he welcomes.
"We don't have any human-resource support to assist in research. All over the world, elected representatives don't come with any management skills. They might have ideas, but they need support," Jackson said.
Currently co-chair of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Parliamentary Assembly and co-president of the ACP-European Union Joint Assembly, Jackson said that when he goes to those meetings, he is a delegation of one, while his European counterparts have up to three research assistants providing support during meetings.
"You have to think and act on your feet because unlike others, you don't have technical support to deal with the issues being discussed," Jackson said.