SPEAKER MUST GO!
Calls mount for Dalrymple-Philibert to step aside in wake of Integrity Commission charges
PRESSURE IS mounting on Speaker of the House of Representatives Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert to step aside as the presiding officer in the Lower House until the eight charges she is facing are dealt with by a court of law.
The charges relate to breaches of the Parliament (Integrity of Members) Act and the Integrity Commission Act.
A $6-million Mercedes Benz GLA250, that was not submitted as part of her statutory declarations for the six-year period 2015 to 2021 to the Integrity Commission (IC), landed the Speaker in trouble with the anti-corruption body.
Jeanette Calder, executive director of the Jamaica Accountability Meter Portal (JAMP), told The Gleaner yesterday that in light of the findings of an investigative report from the IC and a ruling from its director of corruption prosecution (DCP) the Speaker must face a court of law and that the duties of Speaker must be delegated to the Deputy Speaker of the House, Juliet Holness.
But the Advocates Network and National Integrity Action have called for the “immediate resignation” of the Speaker.
At the same time, immediate past president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association John Mahfood says that in the interest of transparency and good governance, the Speaker should step aside from her role as presiding officer in Parliament.
Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, Calder indicated that if Prime Minister Andrew Holness is going to be consistent with his commitment to create a culture of accountability and integrity, she was not anticipating a stalemate in the matter.
The parliamentary Opposition has argued strenously that Dalrymple-Philibert’s position as Speaker has become untenable and that she has no choice but to relinquish her position as presiding officer.
Julian Robinson, member of parliament for St Andrew South East, said during an interview on the radio programme Morning Agenda on Power 106 on Wednesday that he would not be attending the sitting of Parliament next Tuesday if Dalrymple-Philibert is presiding. It is not clear whether this is the collective position of the Opposition.
Holness was absent from Tuesday’s sitting, but Calder argued that she did not see the prime minister returning to the Lower House next week to justify the stance taken by the Speaker.
The Speaker told members of the House on Tuesday that she decided to table the IC report concerning her statutory declaration because she had “nothing to hide”.
In a statement, the Speaker said she filed her statutory declaration in keeping with the law in a timely and transparent manner.
The JAMP executive director said that when the matter goes to court, if there is a ruling in favour of Dalrymple-Philibert, then she should resume her duties.
“If the court does not make a decision in her favour, then she is to resign and another parliamentarian would have to be appointed in her place. Whether it is the deputy Speaker or another, that is entirely up to due process,” she said.
NIA and Advocates Network argue that many public officers and civil servants, including policemen and teachers, are suspended or interdicted when charged with a criminal offence.
“The same standard must apply to the House Speaker. This matter dramatises the urgent need for a code of conduct for parliamentarians,” the groups said.
In a Gleaner interview yesterday, Mahfood raised questions about the Speaker remaining as the umpire of the House while a ruling has been made that charges should be brought against her.
“It certainly seems to me that if the Integrity Commission brought this case, even if it is a mistake, as she says, it’s a serious matter, and she should step aside as the Speaker of the House in the interest of transparency and good governance,” he insisted.
Meanwhile, the Holness administration is reportedly caught in two minds over how to deal with the situation: that either Dalrymple-Philibert takes a leave of absence from her role as Speaker or that she apologises to the nation but “buckle down and stay the course”, according to multiple insiders who are familiar with discussions on the issue.
The overwhelming preference is for Dalrymple-Philibert to remain as the Parliament’s chief presiding officer, explained one of the officials who spoke on condition that they not be named.
“Resigning will set a major precedent for Integrity Commission reports and expectations without any focus on the nature of the allegations and offences.
“What is going to happen next? Who will be next? It could be a minister or even the prime minister. It could bring down the Government,” argued the official, who said there needs to be a clear distinction made about what offences will trigger a resignation.
The Gleaner sought responses from the prime minister to a number of questions regarding the status of Dalrymple-Philibert going forward.
However, up to news time, responses to those questions had not been received.