‘BAD DAY’ IN HOUSE
Corruption prosecutor recommends Speaker face charges
With an unprecedented ruling by the Integrity Commission (IC) that Speaker of the House of Representatives Marisa Dalrymple Philibert should face eight counts of corruption-related charges, calls are being made for her to resign.
According to the Opposition lawmakers making those calls, her position as the presiding officer at the nation’s Parliament has become untenable.
The parliamentary Opposition walked out of the Gordon House Chamber yesterday, after attempting to raise questions over a newly tabled IC report containing the ruling that Dalrymple Philibert be charged for breaching the Integrity Commission Act and making false statements to the anti-corruption body in her statutory declaration for the period 2015 to 2021.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding said Prime Minister Andrew Holness was ultimately responsible for not blocking Dalrymple Philibert from presiding as Speaker after the damning ruling from the director of corruption prosecution at the IC.
“He should have made it his business to know. What has happened today has cast a stain on the Parliament of our country. The international image of our country. He should have been present here to ensure that that did not happen. He was derelict in his responsibilities to the nation by absenting himself today from what happened,” Golding charged.
He told journalists yesterday at Gordon House that Dalrymple Philibert must step back and another government lawmaker assume the position as Speaker.
“It was quite inappropriate and a violation of the principle of good governance for the person who is the subject of this report and ruling to be deciding as Speaker what happens to it,” he argued.
“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,” he added.
According to the opposition leader, anyone who has an interest in parliamentary affairs, democratic governance and the fight against corruption globally is going to look at this in a very negative light.
Golding noted that when he stood to ask the Speaker whether she had intended to deal with the ruling as well as the report and whether she would stay in the chair as the presiding officer, she shut down questions from the Opposition benches.
“In that gagging situation we decided to remove ourselves from the Parliament in protest because, although we are small in number, we are there to uphold and defend the Constitution of the country,” he said.
When Golding rose to quiz the Speaker on the issue, she made it clear that the matter was not up for debate.
At that point the Opposition walked out of Parliament and called a press conference to address the issue.
Golding insisted that the umpire of all decisions and procedures of the House cannot remain in her position while she was facing such serious charges.
During the sitting of Parliament, Dalrymple Philibert said she decided to table the IC report concerning her statutory declaration because she had “nothing to hide”.
“As required by law, I have always filed my statutory declarations and have done so in a timely and transparent manner...,” Dalrymple Philibert said in a statement.
At the same time, she said the matter, which is related to a 2015 motor vehicle, was in the hands of her legal team, led by Peter Champagnie K.C.
The Speaker later directed that the report be sent to the Integrity Commission Oversight Committee and the Ethics Committee of Parliament for deliberations.
The Speaker chairs the Ethics Committee but Dalrymple Philibert indicated that when the report is being reviewed she will recuse herself from the discussion.
Golding noted that the Opposition was not “gleeful about what is happening but we do believe that principle is principle and we must uphold the dignity of the office”.
“This is a bad day for Jamaica’s Parliament because she is still in the chair making rulings including the ruling as to what should happen to the report about herself. Can’t work,” he charged.