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EDITORIAL - Speaker Chuck should recalibrate

Published:Friday | April 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Delroy Chuck, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is an affable, intelligent man, who this newspaper felt was being wasted in his current job and had proposed for higher office.

He could do no worse, for instance, than others who Prime Minister Bruce Golding has tried at the national security ministry.

We presume, too, that he would have been a thoughtful minister of justice and a reasonably competent attorney general. He might not have treated the advice any differently, but we suspect that Prime Minister Golding would have received thoughtful, considered and mature counsel on the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition affair, which so burdens the Government.

But, while we still hold Mr Chuck in esteem, his recent management of the affairs of the House, and particularly some of his recent statements, have given us cause for concern. To put it politely, Delroy Chuck is in grave danger of losing his way. He must urgently take stock.

For instance, there was that case recently when Mr Chuck allowed the bipartisan flouting of parliamentary rules and, thereby, trampling of the rights of South West St Catherine MP Everald Warmington, so as to preserve consensus approval of recommendations from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica. What was particularly bad about that episode was not so much Mr Chuck's mistake at the expense of democracy. Rather, he lost control and pandered to the dictates of the whips and the front-bench heavyweights on both sides of the aisle.

More egregious, though, was the Speaker's characterisation of the relationship between the press and parliamentarians. It was an excruciatingly bad misapprehension of cause and effect and of accountability.

Mr Chuck does face a difficulty in controlling an often unruly gaggle in the legislature. Our MPs, regularly, are like arrested pubescents, just let out and on a rude pre-holiday binge. Lacking subtlety, absent of the art of the insult and having failed to prepare to represent their constituents effectively, they resort to crudities.

It is this behaviour that the press mirrors as part of its compact with the society to help untangle the raft of issues with which we are confronted and to be a watchdog of governance. Mr Chuck, unfortunately, sees this as an inherent dislike of politicians by the press.

"The media don't like any politician," the Speaker told legislators recently. "Everything that you say that is destructive that really puts us in a bad light, the media is the first the highlight it." (sic)

Of course, Mr Chuck had a noble objective: to rally the legislature into being a thoughtful place of serious discourse, capable of advancing the agenda of the Jamaican people. The idea, however, was badly articulated - unless the Speaker truly believes that the press is the enemy, which is unlikely to be the case.

We would advise Mr Chuck that rather than such cheap emotive appeals to greyed adolescents, he should start by reframing his own posture on the Chair, taking control and imposing discipline on the recalcitrant bunch.

He must set the example that the House is a serious place of ideas where the intellect is likely to be challenged. And this doesn't mean that the atmosphere has to be stifling or stuffy.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.