So whether you voted or not, whether the party you wanted to win actually won or not, the new government has been formed. The new Prime Minister was sworn in on March 3 at King’s House.
The new Cabinet members were sworn in on March 7 and the list (18 Ministers in 14 Ministries) can be seen here. Cabinet Ministers Jamaica – March 2016
And today Parliament re-opened, with the first sittings of both the new Senate and House of Representatives. All 21 Senators (Senators March 10, 2016) and 61 of 63 Members of Parliament were sworn in. (Dr Omar Davies was not present, due to illness & Mr Derrick Kellier is at the continuing magisterial recount being conducted for his constituency of Southern St James.) The new President of the Senate and the new Speaker of the House were both elected by their fellow members, as were their Deputies.
Both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller made brief remarks, in which each included an appeal to the newly sworn Members of Parliament to behave in a suitably respectful manner during the sittings of the House.
A number of people commented on Twitter during the ceremony that this was a learning opportunity for many, including students; one teacher actually tweeted that he and his students were watching at the time. Going forward this will be a learning experience for the Parliamentarians also, particularly those who are in Parliament for the first time. The Handbook for Parliamentarians, which gives a briefing about the workings of Parliament, is a useful short guide for the public as well.
So the election excitement (or irritation) is behind us; the pre- & post- election analysis, discussion and debate has subsided or moved to another phase. Now what? Well, the country continues on.
Some people hold the view that your role as a citizen in this process is pretty much over. They would say you can now pack it in until the next election (which may be less than 5 years from now, given the narrow margin in Parliament). I obviously disagree. I believe that it is important for citizens in a democracy to stay engaged, in the differing ways possible.
By the way, the Gleaner’s diGJamaica has provided a list of social media contacts for MPs, Ministers and Senators, and has promised to update it as necessary. One way to engage!
The unprecedented one-seat majority in the House is going to provided a new experience for the MPs, for the political parties and for the country as a whole. It will be fascinating to watch from a purely academic perspective, but the impact for us as a country takes it way beyond the academic. It provides opportunities and tests for the maturity of our democracy, our political leaders and MPs and the society generally. Hopefully we will pass the test creditably.