Right Steps & Poui Trees


How Often Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2017 – 2018? Do You Care?

Last week Thursday (February 15, 2018) saw the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament for the new Parliamentary year, with all the attendant pageantry. Opening of Parliament 2018 - Gordon House

This included the usual walk on Duke Street by Government and Opposition Members of Parliament, as they entered Gordon House for the first time for the 2018 – 2019 Parliamentary year.

The new year is always a good time to reflect on the performance of Parliament and its members in the past year. One easily tallied and basic marker is attendance. This is a very limited marker admittedly. It indicates nothing about other basic markers such as punctuality or length of stay at each sitting; it doesn’t indicate participation in debates or voting record. It doesn’t indicate whether or not MPs attended meetings of any Committees they were members of and whether they contributed anything useful during those meetings. There are many other aspects to an MP’s performance in Parliament. But attendance is a good starting point. So as I have for the past two years, I have compiled the attendance record for MPs and posted them on my blog.


2017-2018 Attendance in Parliament a2017-2018 Attendance in Parliament b

You can also access the actual records I got from Parliament, from which I compiled my table: ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT 2017 – 2018

There were 47 sittings of the House of Representatives in 2017 – 2018, including the Ceremonial Opening and the special sitting to honour retiring MP and former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. This is an increase over the 41 sittings in 2016 – 2017, though that was a shorter year, beginning in March 2016 after the General Election that February. Four MPs attended all 47 sittings – Dave Hume Brown, Delroy Chuck, Morais Guy and Franklin Witter. It is interesting to note that MP Ian Hayles, who had the worst attendance record last year (having attended only 19 of the 41 sittings), improved his record this year, having attended 36 of the 47 sittings. And despite the requirement in 81(1) of the Standing Orders for the House of Representatives that MPs give apologies for their absences, very few seem to do so, according to these records.

81. Absence of Members – (1) Any member who is prevented from attending a meeting of the House shall acquaint the Speaker as early as possible of his inability to attend, such notices to be in writing.

Do you care, however, if your MP attends Parliament? Or do you think it doesn’t much matter? One way or the other, you can – if you want to – check to see what their record was for last year.

Related Posts

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

How Many Times Did Your MP Attend Parliament in 2015?



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Parliamentarians, A Joint Select Committee & INDECOM

In Parliament last week Tuesday (January 30, 2018), during the discussion about extending the period of Public Emergency in St James, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Peter Phillips both commented on the functioning of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).  Their comments fit into an ongoing narrative that paints INDECOM as not being “balanced” in its approach and acting in a way that demoralizes the members of the security forces it is mandated to investigate.MP Phillips - PBCJ - Parliament 30-1-18

Dr Phillips: I’d like to end by also offering our commendations to the security forces for, not only in this area in St James but generally, the rank and file for the most part and the officers for the most part have conducted themselves with commendable efficiency in very difficult circumstances and they are to be commended. And I think even as they go, not only there but in the other areas of the country, while we urge them to obey the law, I want to urge those who investigate them, including INDECOM, to be mindful of the circumstances in which they operate. If I can be blunt, if INDECOM has a problem with the members of the security forces, I don’t think they should disarm them in public in full view of the citizens. I think that that unnecessarily demoralizes the men and women who are urged to obey the law, but who operate in what is a very dangerous situation on the street. There is literally a war that has been declared on society and in that circumstances you cannot weaken those who serve in the face of those who attack them.

PM Holness - PBCJ - Parliament 30-1-18

In responding to Dr Phillips, PM Holness said:

You mentioned INDECOM. We take the view that there really needs to be balance in how INDECOM operates. I’ve decided not to go any further with my comments on INDECOM. I think this House, which created the institution, which still retains the power, at some point…I suspect it would have to be sooner than later…we will have to take some decisions…to ensure that that very important institution operates with balance.

(A video recording of the session in Parliament is available here. Dr Phillips’ comment begins at 1:11:59 & PM Holness’ comment begins at 1:37:00.)

The following day, INDECOM issued two press releases in response to the comments in Parliament. In the first, the Commission refuted Dr Phillips’ assertion:INDECOM press release Jan 31 2018 aINDECOM press release Jan 31 2018 b

In the second, INDECOM shared Commissioner Williams’ letter to Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, requesting an opportunity to be informed of the perceived problems and to respond:

INDECOM press release and letter 31-2-18 a

INDECOM letter to Minister of Justice 31-1-18

Dear Minister Chuck,

Re: Remarks in Parliament on INDECOM

Reference is made to the captioned.

On the 30th instant, remarks were made in Parliament that INDECOM needed “balance” in its work and that INDECOM’s investigators were disarming police officers in public spaces.

As a Commission of Parliament, INDECOM is obligated to make reports to Parliament on matters of concern. We do not know what claims advised the assertion that our work lacks balance and would appreciate an opportunity to be so advised and to respond. As misinformation must not be permitted to direct policy.

The remark about disarming of police officers ia an example of misinformation. This was raised by the Police Federation during the Joint Select Committee’s Review of the INDECOM Act. We were able to debunk this claim. The position remains that police officers are disarmed by their colleagues and this is done at the police station. A 2014 JCF Force Order published the agreed protocol between the JCF in this regard.

Given your statutory remit to serve as the liason between INDECOM and Parliament, INDECOM seeks your kind intervention in this matter to permit us to be aware of assertions being made and to answer them.

Yours sincerely,


Terrence F Williams



This is not the first occasion on which PM Holness has spoken about INDECOM needing to be more “balanced” in its approach or for the need to review or make changes to the INDECOM Act. It is unfortunate and unhelpful, however, that the Prime Minister hasn’t been more specific in making clear exactly what he means by “balance/balanced” or what aspects of the Act he thinks need further review or need to be changed. His repeated references without specificity encourage speculation, limit INDECOM’s ability to respond and may have the effect of eroding confidence in the workings of the Commission.

Review of the INDECOM Act

Section 37 of the INDECOM Act, which came into effect in 2010, requires periodic reviews of the Act, the first to take place no later than three years after the Act came into effect.

INDECOM Act Section 37

In 2013, a Joint Select Committee (JSC) was established to review the Act; it began its examination on June 27, 2013, held 23 meetings, concluded its report in October 2015 and the report was tabled in Parliament in November 2015. JSC INDECOM Act Review report

A copy of the report is available here: Joint Select Committee Report on INDECOM Act. What has happened to the report since it was submitted to Parliament? Which of the JSC’s recommendations have been accepted or rejected? What amendments to the Act are to be tabled in Parliament? More than two years after the report was submitted, it would be reasonable for the public to have some official word via Parliament.

A September 29, 2016 Jamaica Information Service (JIS) release titled “Cabinet Looking at Report on INDECOM” included the following reference to a statement made by National Security Minister Robert Montague:JIS 29-9-16 Montague re INDECOM report - an excerpt

Last year there was a report in the media that Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck had indicated there had been some movement regarding Cabinet’s consideration of the JSC recommendations, but there has still not been any action in Parliament regarding the report and its recommendations.

And this is part of what makes the comments in Parliament last week by the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister so remiss.  Parliament passed a law establishing INDECOM, a Commission of Parliament (2010). That law passed by Parliament required a review of the law not more than three years after passage. Parliament established a Joint Select Committee of both House to conduct that review (2013). That Committee of Parliament held meetings over two years and produced a report containing its recommendations. That report was tabled in Parliament (2015). More than two years later, there has been no further action in Parliament regarding that report and its recommendations (2018). Yet the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition found it appropriate to make the comments they did in Parliament.

The Prime Minister did say “I think this House, which created the institution, which still retains the power, at some point…I suspect it would have to be sooner than later…we will have to take some decisions….” Yes, I would suggest that Parliament – that Parliamentarians – take some action, make some decisions. The current situation really makes a mockery of Parliament’s own processes.







A New Commissioner. A New Force?

COP QualloLast year January the Police Service Commission (PSC) was in the process of “seeking to identify a suitably qualified candidate either from within or outside the Jamaica Constabulary Force to fill the post of Commissioner of Police as soon as possible.” Less than a year after the new Commissioner of Police was appointed, the PSC is again in that process, as Commissioner George Quallo is set to demit office this week.

In a blog post on January 3, 2017, Advertising for Police Commissioner & Other Public Posts, I shared the advertisement for Commissioner of Police placed in the newspapers on January 1 that year and raised some concerns about the advertising and selection process, concerns which I continue to have.

I think that the advertisement posted is seriously lacking in one regard. It does not set out in any specificity the qualifications and experience required of applicants for the post of Commissioner of Police. What level of experience in law enforcement is required? Must experience be within policing or will experience in some other context be considered, for example the military, correctional services or private security? Is there a minimum number of years of experience necessary for consideration? What level of supervisory/managerial experience is required? What are the preferred and minimum educational requirements for the post? These are a few of the requirements that could reasonably be expected to be specified in such an advertisement. It would also be useful to know if the PSC is advertising the post outside of Jamaica, regionally or further afield.

I have long thought that this is an approach that should be taken routinely when advertising vacant public posts, not just for the current vacancy for Commissioner of Police. It gives the public a clearer idea of the criteria considered important for successful fulfilment of the job. It also gives the public a basis for evaluating how well the candidate eventually appointed meets the required qualifications and experience for the post. This would support the increased move towards transparency and accountability required in modern approaches to good governance. It is not too late for the PSC to adopt this approach, and perhaps it is time for this to become routine and required when advertising  vacancies for public posts in Jamaica.

As Commissioner Quallo leaves office and as the selection process for the new Commissioner takes place, the public has no specific idea of what qualifications and experience the PSC is looking for in a “suitably qualified candidate”, beyond “strong managerial experience”. The public has no idea how well the outgoing Commissioner fit the PSC’s criteria and will have no idea how well the new Commissioner selected fits those criteria, unless the PSC decides to be more forthcoming this time round.

As would be expected, there are discussions in the traditional and social media about what people would want to see in a new Commissioner. One thread of discussion is that the new Commissioner should be someone capable of leading a process of reform/change/transformation in the police force. As Professor Anthony Clayton said in a discussion on the Nationwide News programme Nationwide @ Five yesterday, “So we are not looking for a continuity candidate; we are looking for a change candidate.”

But the question arises: Change to what? It has long been known that there is a need for fundamental reform of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and over many years there have been reviews and reports giving recommendations for such reform. The 2008 Strategic Review of the JCF report detailed many such recommendations itself, and in its Appendix E provided a useful review of the recommendations of a number of previous reports. If we are expecting the new Commissioner of Police to lead reform of the JCF, it would be good if there were a clear, accepted, official outline of what that reform would look like and would entail.JCF Strategic Review Appendix E

JCF_2008 Strategic_Review_Appendices

Montague 23-1-18In Parliament last week (January 23, 2018), Minister of National Security Robert Montague gave an update on “a number of issues pertaining to National Security”; this was in the context of the State of Public Emergency declared for the parish of St James the previous week. In a section of his presentation titled Legislative changes, Minister Montague reiterated the Government’s intention to :replace the current Act governing the JCF:

Sir, we intend to table within 6 months a Police Service Act which will replace the
150 year old Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Act which will be subsequently
repealed. The goal is to break with the past and create a modern Police Service
befitting our times and to better protect the members and serve the public.

This is another important opportunity for reform of the JCF, but the proposed new legislation cannot simply be the old legislation subjected to some level of tinkering. It needs to be reflective of a fundamentally different approach to policing. It is also necessary that there is adequate time allotted for review of and consultation on the draft legislation by members of the public. If this is to be legislation creating a modern Police Service, then it must undergo such a process of consultation with the people the new Police Service is to serve.

Over decades, we have come time and again to the point of  stating that reform of the police force is a necessary part of being able to deal with the high level of violent crime that has long plagued Jamaica. Perhaps one day there will actually be the political and societal will to undertake the necessary reform.



Regulations for State of Public Emergency in St James: The Emergency Powers Regulations, 2018

When I checked online again this morning, I wasn’t able to find a copy of the regulations governing the current State of Public Emergency in St James, which were tabled in Parliament yesterday (January 23, 2018). Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right place, but it shouldn’t be so hard to locate, if it is online. I was able to get a hard copy from Parliament this morning and below is a scanned copy. I haven’t yet read it, so can’t offer any opinion on its provisions.

Regulations 2018

The Emergency Powers Regulations 2018


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350 Words Or Less: Have You Read The #NIDS Bill As Passed?

The National Identification and Registration Bill with the Senate Amendments was passed in Parliament on Tuesday (November 21, 2017), in what turned out to be a controversial process. Whatever you think should happen next, the Bill is now posted on Parliament’s website, if you would like to read it. It has not yet been signed by the Governor General.

The National Identification and Registration Bill

NIDS Bill pic 2



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National Identification & Registration (#NIDS) Bill: Senate’s 168 Amendments

Last week Monday, November 13, 2017, the Senate passed the National Identification & Registration Bill with 168 amendments. This was the second day on which the Senate had held a marathon session regarding this piece of legislation, the first session being the previous Friday. It is intended that the Bill, commonly referred to as the NIDS Bill, will go back to the Lower House for passage quickly, possibly this week.

At the time of publishing this blog post, the version of the NIDS Bill that is on Parliament’s website is the version that was passed in the Lower House on September 19, 2017, including the 100 plus amendments made there. The version of the Bill with the Senate amendments has not yet been posted, though I hope it will be before the Bill returns to the Lower House.

If you wish to know what the current status of the Bill is, here is a list of the Senate amendments obtained from Parliament: NIDS amendments blog picAmendments moved to the National Identification and Registration Act 2017 by the Senate which can be read in conjunction withNIDS Bill from Lower House blog pic the version of the NIDS Bill currently on Parliament’s website.

UPDATE – November 21, 2017: During an online Twitter/Facebook Town Hall about the NIDS yesterday, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, the Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, who piloted the Bill through the Senate, confirmed that the Bill would be tabled in the Lower House today with the intention of passing it today. She said that once the Bill was tabled, the updated version would be posted on Parliament’s website. What this effectively means is that the public will not have an opportunity to review the Bill with the Senate amendments before it is passed into law.

The timing for passage of the Bill was also confirmed in a tweet from PM Holness’ account. (Note that although the time on the tweet here says 1:28 PM, it actually was about 4:30 PM when the tweet was sent.)PM Holness NIDS tweet 21-11-17


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Note-Taking in the Visitors’ Gallery in Parliament: 2002…Yes! 2017…No?

Last week Friday (November 10, 2017) I went to Gordon House to observe the continuation of the Senate’s deliberations on the National Identification & Registration (NIDS) Bill.

Gordon HouseWhen I reached the entrance to the Parliament building, a police woman was conducting a search of women’s handbags. I placed my handbag on the table and then was told, as others were before and after me, that note-taking wasn’t allowed in the Visitors’ Gallery and that I would have to leave my papers downstairs if I wanted to go up to the Gallery. The large envelope of papers I was carrying included not only my notebook, but also my copy of the Bill being debated, the Amendments List tabled in the Senate the Friday before and other documents about amendments that we hoped would be made.

I was very annoyed and expressed my annoyance loudly. In exchanges with the police personnel and with the Marshal, I indicated that the rule against note-taking had been challenged years ago and had been changed to allow people in the Gallery to take notes. I was informed that it had been revised last year, that note-taking was now banned and could only take place with the permission of the President of the Senate. Another member of the public and I decided to remain downstairs while the Marshal went to see if we would be allowed in with our papers.

While we waited, we saw Senator K.D. Knight entering and approached him and informed him of what we had been told. He said he would check to see what was happening.

Not long afterwards, the Marshal returned and indicated that we could go up to the Gallery, which we did, taking our papers and notebooks with us. A number of colleagues who entered after I did relayed similar accounts of being told they couldn’t take notes and one had had to leave his papers downstairs.

Later on, prior to starting his presentation on the NIDS Bill, Senator Knight raised the matter of people being told they couldn’t take notes in the Gallery. The President of the Senate, Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, responded saying that he wasn’t clear what the origin of this no note-taking rule was, that it apparently required his permission for notes to be taken and that he was giving his carte blanche permission in that regard. His decision was a much appreciated one.

The reasons for my frustration and annoyance were twofold. Firstly, a rule against note-taking in the Gallery makes no sense. It is hard to see any logical reason for it. Members of the media are allowed to take notes. The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) broadcasts the proceedings live, including streaming on the internet. What is the danger that is being protected against?

The other reason for my frustration is that in 2002 – fifteen years ago – Jamaicans for Justice (of which I was and still am a member), Transparency International (JA) and the Farquharson Institute wrote to Parliament asking for a meeting to discuss the no note-taking convention, which we felt should be repealed. We wrote to the Clerk of the House on March 28, 2002 and received a reply on June 13, 2002, indicating that in the interim a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee of the House had discussed the issue, had decided that the convention should be abolished and that a motion to this effect had been put to the House on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 and had been agreed to.

The Minutes of the Meeting of the Standing Orders Committee Held on May 28, 2002 at 2:20 P.M. ( Standing Orders Committee Minutes May 28 2002 ) say the following:Standing Order Committee minutes 28 May 2002

The Report of the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives on Its Deliberations on Proposed Amendment to Standing Order No.65 and the Matter of Note Taking in Parliament ( Standing Orders Committee Report June 4 2002 ) says the following:Standing Orders Committee report June 4 2002

The Hansard Report for the Sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 11, 2002 ( Hansard – House of Representatives June 11 2002 pp 626-643) contains the following record of the motion put by Dr Peter Phillips, then Leader of Government Business:

Hansard June 11 2002 aHansard June 11 2002 bHansard June 11 2002c

In 2002, the Government and Opposition members were in agreement that members of the public should be allowed to take notes in the Gallery. By their response to Senator Tavares-Finson’s decision, Government and Opposition Senators seemed to agree last Friday.

A number of us intend to follow up to find out why the no-note taking convention is once again in effect and to ask that it be removed…again. Hopefully, the problem will be quickly corrected.

(As a member and representative of human rights organization Jamaicans for Justice, I worked on this issue when it first arose. I remain a member of the organization. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)