Letter of the Day | Why are parliamentary committees failing to meet?
THE EDITOR, Madam:
As leader of Opposition Business in the House of Parliament, I write to amplify the views expressed in the article published in Sunday Gleaner, titled: “Committees in hibernation”.
The fact that only one of the three Select Sessional Committees has met since the start of the administration is only the beginning of the examination as to the real reason for the Government side in the House wresting the chairmanship of these key committees from the Opposition.
At the time this decision was made, we were advised by the prime minister that the intent was to ensure greater efficiency in the operation of these important committees and to expand the oversight role of Parliament beyond financial and managerial probity of ministries and agencies to include policy and legislative oversight, and to engage citizens and organisations. It is important to note that all of which are provided for in the Standing Orders.
However, the reasons advanced for the failure of the committees to meet, ‘that no matter has been referred to these committees’, is quite spurious.
Standing Order No. 77A provides: “A matter may be referred to a Select Committee, if, on the question being put, at least 16 members of the house so decide”.
The fact that there are only 14 Opposition members in the House currently, and there are no matters referred to these committees is squarely the responsibility of the Government side.
Further, the failure of these committees to meet even once compounds the situation, as Standing Order No. 73C provides in part: “Each of the Committees established under paragraph (h) (i) (j)….. shall have the duty of:
(a) Examining policy documents and statements
(b) Examining legislative proposals
(c) Receiving submissions from citizens
(d) Organising meetings with relevant organisations
In this period of great economic upheavals due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent need to engage our wider citizenry, this dereliction of duty not only serve to exclude the voices of the other Parliamentarians, but the voices of the people themselves.
Could this be the real intent?
G ANTHONY HYLTON
Leader of Government Business
House of Representative
Member of Parliament for St Andrew Western