Wed | Jan 23, 2019

MPs chide colleagues for shunning committee

Published:Friday | January 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

FITZ JACKSON, the member of parliament for South St Catherine, said on Wednesday that many of his colleague legislators appear not to understand that their job requires them to represent their constituencies in Parliament.

Jackson made the comments as members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) took stock of several burning issues which they say have been humbugging the operations of the committee.

"If we are honest with ourselves as members, many of us don't take the parliamentary work as being critical or central to being a member of parliament," Jackson said.

North West Manchester MP Mikael Phillips had complained at the start of the meeting that too many members of the PAAC were habitually absent, making a mockery of the process of examining the public administration of the more than 280 government agencies which from time to time are summoned to appear.

"It is as important for us to be in our constituencies, but we were elected to do work here on behalf of the people of Jamaica," Phillips said.

The PAAC consists of 17 members, but hardly has more than seven members present for most of its meetings.

Phillips, who had a perfect attendance record for the House of Representatives between April and December last year, said the level of absenteeism has the potential to sap energy.

"Sometimes it breaks you. As a rural MP, I make an effort to come to the committee and sometimes it is only two or three of us," the first-time MP said.

Replace absentee members

He reiterated a long-time suggestion that committee chairman Edmund Bartlett has discussions with Leader of Government Business Phillip Paulwell and Leader of Opposition Business Derrick Smith, to have some of the members replaced.

"We have to seriously do the work that we are here charged to do," Phillips said.

But Jackson has suggested that it takes more than a change of personnel to get the desired level of attendance and participation on the committee.

"If we want to be frank, too often, many members of parliament are consumed by the local issues and presence. I tell my constituents very bluntly, that you are not going to see me very much in the constituency because you elect me to go to Parliament. I can't be here and there at the same time. There is work to be done here and my councillors have work to be done there, and we work in support of each other," Jackson said.

"The committees are not going to work unless the members are physically there in order to make any contribution, and that is the bottom line. So we talk until we are blue to our respective leaders in the House - Government and opposition and the speaker - unless we the members deem it important, imperative (and) overbearing to be here, to participate, to represent the people on the issues that the government institutions are doing, then it is not going to change," Jackson said.

Bartlett, meanwhile, said it is important that the various leaders in the Parliament ensure that the committees are "properly constituted and constituted with personnel who are going to do the job and be committed to it".

Members of the PAAC are: Bartlett (chairman), Lloyd B. Smith, Fitz Jackson, Richard Parchment, Denise Daley, Mikael Phillips, Raymond Pryce, Dr Dayton Campbell, Audley Shaw, Dr Horace Chang, Mike Henry, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Dr Andrew Wheatley, Dr Winston Green, Damion Crawford, Jolyan Silvera and Andrew Hylton.