Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Mic check?

Parliament unsure whether legislators consulted before acquiring controversial system

Published:Tuesday | September 26, 2023 | 12:09 AM

THE ADMINISTRATIVE arm of Parliament is seemingly unaware as to whether lawmakers on both sides of the political divide were consulted on the type of microphone system that should replace a previous one that was beset by a string of defects.

Journalists who attended a sensitisation session on the new microphone system at Gordon House on Monday sought responses on a number of issues from Clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Valrie Curtis, but the administrative head of the legislature signalled that the questions be presented in writing.

When pressed for responses, the clerk asked Director of Corporate Communications and Public Relations Tashana Sewell to field questions.

Sewell said she was not privy to information on whether the legislators were consulted.

The Government has insisted that it had no role to play in the upgrade of the new microphone system.

Deputy leader of Opposition business in the Lower House, Natalie Neita Garvey, said there was no consultation in installing the new system.

The parliamentary Opposition has described the system as a “gag-o-phone”, claiming that the aim is to prevent its members from speaking on critical matters.

At the last meeting of the Lower House, former Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert refused to open the microphone of Opposition Leader Mark Golding after he rose to comment on a controversial decision she made concerning an Integrity Commission report on breaches of the anti-corruption law.

“She has made a ruling as Speaker on what should happen with her own report and has refused to allow the Opposition to say a word. She’s been a judge and jury in her own cause on that ruling today which offends basic principles of law and justice,” Golding said at the time.

However, when asked how the Televic D-Cerno conference system was chosen, Sewell said that Parliament entered into a competitive procurement process “and assessed our needs based on the requirements of our parliamentary meetings”.

Five companies had put forward bids to supply and install the new system, said Sewell.

Caribbean Technology Solutions won the bid, which resulted in the installation of the new system at a cost of $18 million.

Sewell also said that several parliamentarians have already been trained on how to use it and that the remainder would also receive training.


Meanwhile, Glenford McFarlane, managing director of Caribbean Technology Solutions, told reporters that while the new system is robust, its lifespan will depend on how it is used.

“The problems that arise in technology systems boils down to how they are used or abused,” McFarlane said, indicating that the characteristic banging of desks in the House could eventually damage the technology.

Giving details on how the new microphone system works, McFarlane said that a member of parliament can press a button to indicate that he or she wants to speak and the Speaker or chairperson would open the microphone to allow the individual to make his/her contribution.

At the end of the presentation, the member presses the same button that is used to request permission to speak and the microphone is closed.

Other members who wish to speak have the opportunity to press the button and will fall into a queue. The Speaker will then allow them to address the House after their microphones are opened in the order in which they joined the line.

“All modes require that persons join a queue and then be selected to speak,” he said.

McFarlane said that the Televic microphone system was not unique to Jamaica’s Parliament alone as similar systems are used in Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico and Turks and Caicos Islands.