MPs clash in Par­lia­ment over Lo­cal Gov­er­nance Bill

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

OME­THING HAS hap­pened why I have to stand for the first time in seven months,” de­clared a stern Speaker of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Pear­nel Charles, who stood yes­ter­day with gavel in hand to quell an up­roar and shout­ing match be­tween mem­bers on both sides of the par­lia­men­tary di­vide as they traded barbs over a bill that would have the ef­fect of split­ting the Port­more Mu­nic­i­pal­ity from the St Cather­ine Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion.

Charles, who ear­lier, had told mem­bers of the House that he felt an air of hos­til­ity, seemed to have summed up the mood of mem­bers long be­fore Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie rose to in­tro­duce the Lo­cal Gov­er­nance (Amend­ment) Act, a bill that was pre­vi­ously in­ap­pro­pri­ately placed on the Or­der Pa­per of Par­lia­ment and was chal­lenged by Leader of Op­po­si­tion Busi­ness Phillip Paulwell, who de­manded that the er­ror be cor­rected.

McKen­zie’s fresh at­tempt to have the bill “read a first time” yes­ter­day was first re­sisted by Paulwell, who cau­tioned that to in­tro­duce the leg­is­la­tion, which speaks to the set­ting of bound­aries in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, with­out first al­low­ing the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Ja­maica (ECJ) to re­view it, would be a fun­da­men­tal de­par­ture from a tra­di­tion that par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have ob­served for decades.

St Cather­ine South West Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Ever­ald Warm­ing­ton chal­lenged Paulwell’s com­ments, say­ing that the Par­lia­ment was not seek­ing to in­ter­fere with the ECJ’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. “When they (PNP ad­min­is­tra­tion) in Septem­ber 2015 signed an or­der out­side of this House to cre­ate a new bound­ary in Port­more, no­body knew about. That did not have the over­sight of this House ... and that is il­le­gal be­cause all such pro­vi­sions must be brought be­fore the House.”

“Now they come here to­day (yes­ter­day) on fire be­cause of par­ish coun­cil elec­tions. What you get in Fe­bru­ary, you go­ing to get again,” he said in ref­er­ence to the elec­tion vic­tory the Ja­maica Labour Party scored on Fe­bru­ary 25.

CHARLES IN­TER­VENED

Speaker Charles in­ter­vened fol­low­ing ex­tended in­ter­ven­tions from mem­bers on both the Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion sides who en­gaged in ver­bal clashes. He in­structed Clerk to the Houses of Par­lia­ment Heather Cooke to read the bill, a pro­ce­dure that re­sults in its tabling.

How­ever, the par­lia­men­tary op­po­si­tion would not re­lent as se­nior leg­is­la­tor Dr Peter Phillips rose to ad­dress the Speaker. Said Phillips: “Up un­til 1979, min­is­ters were to bring any mat­ter of elec­toral ad­min­is­tra­tion to this House. The con­sti­tu­tional power still rests with min­is­ters, but the way in which that power was ex­er­cised brought the coun­try to the brink of chaos and civil war.”

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