Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Letter of the Day | Parliamentary speaker appointment an affront to democracy

Published:Monday | October 2, 2023 | 12:06 AM


The Advocates Network (AN) joins concerned Jamaicans everywhere in expressing uneasiness at the selection of the member of parliament for St Andrew East Rural and the wife of the prime minister, Juliet Holness, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, albeit against the background of public outcry and calls for the prioritisation of respect for perception and principle of ethics in the decision to appoint a new Speaker.

It is a fact that the Speaker of the House is an office of supreme responsibility and power.

The Speaker sets the agenda. Power is vested to totally manage the legislature, umpiring the expected lively debates between the two parties leading to the passage of laws that affect us all.

Knowing this, shouldn’t tradition and conventions have been set aside in this instance where the Speaker is a known and strong political opponent?

Our only axe to grind is the matter of good governance. This is another example of the trend towards a decline in good governance and the unnerving movement towards autocratic rule.

There are valid concerns when executive and legislative power is concentrated in the hands of a husband and wife.

We expected more from the Opposition to not only recognize the valid concerns related to ethics, impartiality, and potential conflicts of interest that could undermine the integrity of the House.

The fact that there was compliance with this flagrant affront to democracy by the parliamentary Opposition is a slap in the face of the people of this country in whose interest they are sworn to serve. It raises questions about the Opposition’s commitment to addressing vulnerabilities, such as this one, which can compromise efforts to achieve good governance.

We call for a resolution to confront the overwhelming perception that this consolidation of power raises the spectre of a threat to free speech and dissent into totalitarianism in the very edifice of the people’s democratic will. This decision does not demonstrate the act of a well-thinking government committed to enhancing integrity and confidence in its stewardship.

To further deepen the unease, the power of reprimand embedded in the position is causing much apprehension on the ground where the real Jamaicans live.

We cannot help but wonder will the Speaker be able to unreservedly separate the personal from that of her official capacity as House Speaker.

Since the “die is cast” Mrs Holness must be allowed to prove herself – in light of her relationship with the prime minister – as to whether it will be “easy” for her to act exclusively and mutually in our best national interest as against personal interest.

The AN views this latest development as inhospitable to what should be an attempt by both sides of the divide to fortify our political architecture in an effort to safeguard our people, systems, and institutions from abuse.


Advocates Network