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The Classics

PNP boycotts opening of Parliament

Published:Friday | March 17, 2023 | 7:32 AM
Members of the Government, led by Prime Minister the Hon Donald Sangster, proceeding to Parliament building for the swearing-ln ceremony, as the new Parliament met for the first time on Wednesday, March 15, 1967. Immediately behind Mr Sangster are (left) the Hon Clement Tavares and (right) Senator the Hon Sir Neville Ashenheim. Beside the prime minister is Mr Gordon Langdon, commissioner of police.

Representatives from different sections of the society were present at the opening of Parliament. There was, however, no representation of the People’s National Party that formed the Opposition. This was evident in the small group of supporters that gathered outside the Parliament building.

Published Thursday, March 16, 1967

Tight security arrangements…

Traditional ceremony at both meeting 

The traditional ceremony marked the first meeting of Parliament, with the clergy as well as the military taking part, and there were tight security arrangements.

Three representatives of the clergy –  Anglican Bishop of Jamaica, the Rt Rev Percival Gibson; Roman Catholic Bishop of Kingston, the Rt Rev John J. McEleney; and Chairman of the Jamaica Council of Churches, the Rev M.E.W. Sawyers – attended.

They said prayers at the opening of the meeting of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

When the House met, Chief of Staff Brigadier David Smith took a seat in the chamber.  He had previously been outside the House, where the Jamaica Defence Force had mounted a Guard of Honour for the prime minister.

Sir Rowland Phillips, the chief justice, and Sir Herbert Duffus, president of the Court of Appeal, sat in the distinguished visitors’ gallery.

Familiar faces

Familiar faces in the visitors' gallery were two former members of the House – Mr Gideon Aabuthnott-Gallimore and Mr Andrew V. Ross – there to see their sons take their places on the government benches.

Dr Neville Gallimore and Mr Alva Ross were both sworn in yesterday as members of the House.

Another familiar but out-of-place face was Dr Frederick Duhaney, former president of the Senate.

Messrs Richard and Edward Ashenheim, sons of Sir Neville Ashenheim, were there to see him resume his former seat as leader of government business in the Senate.

Mr David Lindo Sr was present to witness his son, who bears his name, take the oath as a member of the majority party.

But apart from these, and a number of ladies, mostly wives of legislators, the gallery was empty.

Perhaps the boycott on the opening of Parliament by the People’s National Party may have had something to do with the sparseness of the attendance by members of the general public, but the numbers in the gallery were smaller than usual on an occasion of this kind.


Outside the House

Outside Gordon House, there were tight combined police and military security measures. No member of the public was allowed in front of the building, but behind police barricades, placed beyond the 'security area', hundred of spectators stood orderly in brilliant sunshine. Some even used the tops of nearby fences and house roofs as vantage points.

North of Gordon House were crowds of JLP supporters, who kept up lively bell-ringing choruses as relatives of party members drove to the House. There was also a voice, heard at intervals over a public address system, giving unofficial advice to the people who had gathered there long before the ceremony started, not to misbehave themselves.

A small crowd was seen south of the building in Duke Street- the direction from which the Opposition Party proceeds on such occasions.

A 48-man guard of honour of members of the Jamaica Defence Force in their scarlet-and-black ceremonial uniform, under the command of Cpt N. Ogilvie, paraded in front of Gordon House, lending colour to the occasion.

In attendance, too, was the band of the JDF under bandmaster G. Gordon – also in the ceremonial outfit.

There was a loud outburst of cheers from the crowds at Charles and Duke streets as members of the government side of Parliament, led by Prime Minister the Hon Donald Sangster, walked from the direction of Charles Street along Duke Street to the Parliament building.

As the rest of the members entered the building, the prime minister mounted a dais on the undercroft in front of the main entrance, where he was given the general salute.  He later joined the other members in the conference room.

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