Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Making Haste: Joint Select Committee & Special Zones of Operations Act

This afternoon (June 13, 2017), the Joint Select Committee of Parliament considering The Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations) (Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017 had its first sitting. It was a short, preliminary meeting primarily intended to set out how the Committee will proceed.

Delroy Chuck 2Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck is chairing the Committee and reminded that the Bill had been tabled in the House by Prime Minister Holness during his Budget Debate presentation on March 21, 2017. He noted that this Bill is one of the measures intended to deal with the high level of violent crime in the country and made reference to the quadruple murder that had taken place in the parish of Hanover this morning. He indicated that the Prime Minister had asked that the Committee complete its deliberations by the end of June. This means that the Committee has about two weeks in which to conduct its process and report back to Parliament; by the first week in July, at the latest, Minister Chuck said.

The Committee has asked that advertisements be placed in the media this week, inviting individuals and organizations to make written submissions on the Bill to Parliament, with a possible deadline for submission by next week Tuesday.  They will also write to a number of specific organizations inviting them to make submissions; among those mentioned were the Jamaica Bar Association, the Advocates Association, the Public Defender, Jamaicans for Justice, the Norman Manley Law School and the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology. Individuals and organizations which make written submissions may be asked to make presentations in the Chamber, which will need to take place next week or the week after that.

Dates for three meetings of the Committee were set today, though these may change, as sometimes happens:

  • Wednesday, June 21 – 9 a.m.
  • Tuesday, June 27 – 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, June 28 – 2 p.m.

It is hoped that all contributions can be concluded by the end of these three meetings, after which the Committee will do a clause-by-clause review of the Bill before finalising their report to Parliament.

Minster Chuck said that Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte will be attending the meetings of the Committee and the next meeting will begin with the Attorney General giving an outline of the Bill. He also said that the National Security Advisor and representatives of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Defence Force will be invited to attend the meetings.

I am not sure of the full membership of the Joint Select Committee, but present today were MPs Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Evon Redman and Floyd Green and Senator Pearnel Charles, Jr. Apologies were tendered for MP Peter Bunting and Senators Mark Golding and Ransford Braham. (Marlene Malahoo Forte was present in her capacity as Attorney General, from Minister Chuck’s comments.)

The Committee is attempting to complete its work in a very short period, with very limited notice to the public for submissions, which may jeopardize the “closer scrutiny of the Parliament in a joint select committee” contemplated by the Prime Minister when he tabled the Bill.

Previous blog post in which I raised questions & concerns about the Bill: Yes, You Do Get to Ask Questions About the Zones of Special Operations Act


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Parliament: Weekly Photo Challenge – Order

“This week, share your take on order, whether literal, figurative, or anything in between (and sure — showing it next to a healthy dose of messiness is fine, too). From library stacks to sock drawers and from ancient temples to modern train stations, let your inner disciplinarian take over.”

The Chamber in our Parliament at Gordon House can seem so orderly when it’s empty.P1150409The Speaker of the House has the responsibility to ensure that Members of Parliament observe the rules of order of the House.  P1150419Copies of laws – in weighty tomes – sit in the Chamber, a reminder of the general need for law and order….P1150427

Weekly Photo Challenge – Order


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How Often Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2016 – 2017?

In the past couple of weeks, the issue of the narrow margin between the Government (32 seats) and the Opposition (31 seats) has come to the fore once again. This is because Member of Parliament (MP) Derrick Smith, who is Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, is currently overseas receiving medical care and if he were absent for the upcoming vote, the Government mightn’t have the votes to pass the Budget.

Derrick Smith Gleaner photo

Gleaner photo

Mr Smith is quoted in an article in The Gleaner this week as saying, “I will be available for any parliamentary vote.” And one can believe it, as he is one of only five MPs who were present for 40 of the 41 sittings of the Parliament during the year. He is also the only MP recorded as present at the sitting scheduled for October 4, 2016, when there was no quorum due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew impacting Jamaica. (I am not sure if his attendance was due to his personal commitment or was in some way connected with his position of Leader of Government Business.)

Attendance in Parliament is only one of many measures of an MP’s performance, but it is a starting place for holding our representatives accountable. The table below sets out MPs’ attendance at the 41 sittings of the new Parliament which had its first sitting on March 10, 2016, after the general election in February. The table doesn’t indicate whether MPs were present for roll call at the start of sessions, though this is available in the records of the Parliament. Whether they stayed to the end of the sessions isn’t recorded, however.

One question to consider as you look at the table is – How much, if at all, does it matter to you whether your MP attends Parliament?

MPs attendance 2016 - 2017 aMPs attendance 2016 - 2017 ab

(Click to access table as PDF file: ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT MARCH 2016 – JANUARY 2017)

RELATED DOCUMENTS

The data for the table was taken from the following attendance records obtained from Parliament:

ATTENDANCE RECORD OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR PERIOD NOV 2015 – DEC 2016

ATTENDANCE RECORD OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR PERIOD NOVEMBER 2016 to JANUARY 2017

RELATED BLOG POST

How Many Times Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2015?


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How Many Times Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2015?

Yesterday the Parliament sat at Gordon House for the first time in 2016, a year in which there is likely to be an election, which will determine who your MP will be for the next 5 years, approximately. (Approximately. Time for a fixed date for Jamaica’s elections?)

Parliament 12-1-16

Quick question…do you know how many times your MP attended Parliament last year? And I am not going to ask you the follow up questions – Do you care? Does it matter? Within the overall role and expectations of MPs, how highly should we rank attendance at Parliament?

I am simply going to say that if you are interested, click here: 2015 ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT – JAMAICA

This chart shows how many times each MP attended the sittings of Parliament in 2015. There were 51 sittings (including the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament on February 19 and the Joint Sitting on September 30, during the visit of UK Prime Minister David Cameron). The chart also shows the number of times absent, absent with apology, apology for illness, and absent on government/official business.

Parliament attendance chart

This data doesn’t indicate whether MPs arrived late, that is after roll call, though that is in the records of Parliament. It also doesn’t indicate how long MPs remained in the Chamber, or what they said or did while there.

It is interesting to note, by the way, that there were more absences generally from September onwards. Were MPs out campaigning?

Below are the documents from Parliament, which set out the record for each sitting and from which the above chart was compiled:

ATTENDANCE RECORD OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR PERIOD JANUARY 13 – March 25, 2015

ATTENDANCE RECORD OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR PERIOD APRIL 7 2015

ATTENDANCE RECORD OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR DECEMBER 2015

I’ll share the Senate attendance record for 2015 in another blog post. I am also interested in attendance at committee meetings, but those might take a longer time to collect.