Opposition concerned about new microphone system at Parliament
The parliamentary Opposition has objected to the introduction of a new microphone system at Gordon House that gives the Speaker power to control who is heard, calling it a "slide towards autocracy".
Acting Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Natalie Neita-Garvey, and Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Peter Bunting, have issued a joint statement on the matter.
"The implementation of this microphone system by the Andrew Holness-led JLP [Jamaica Labour Party] government appears to be an attempt to control the Opposition's ability to hold the Government to account on behalf of the people," they said in the statement.
They continued: "We had repeatedly voiced our concerns about the former Speaker's partisan management of the processes in the House. Now, with this new power, the Speaker will be able to muzzle whoever they don't want to hear, simply by not activating their microphone."
The Opposition said this was evidenced by Tuesday's handling of the session by Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, who resigned as Speaker yesterday in the wake of allegations by the Integrity Commission that she made false statements in the Statutory Declarations for 2015 to 2021.
"On Tuesday, the very day that the new microphone system was being introduced for the first time, the Speaker used it to prevent the Opposition from being heard on a most critical matter that had brought her own status as Speaker into serious question. Only government members were permitted to speak, while the Opposition members were denied, as if our Parliament had become a kangaroo court," the Opposition lawmakers said.
The Opposition charged that the incident suggests an institutionalised strategy aimed at silencing the Opposition in Parliament, especially when it comes to the most critical matters.
The Opposition further stated that it undermines the core principles of parliamentary democracy, including robust debate, accountability and checks and balances.
"Using the microphone system to stifle dissent and silence the people's representatives is an abuse of power and seriously weakens our parliamentary democracy," the opposition asserted.
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