Right Steps & Poui Trees


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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.

TABLE SHOWING COMPILED ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT 2017 – 2018 (link to pdf document)

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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You Voted/You Didn’t Vote. New Government & New Parliament in Place. Work Continues.

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.

holness sworn in 3-3-16

Andrew Holness sworn in at ceremony at King’s House, presided over by Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen

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 2016Cabinet 3-2016

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!

diG tweet re social media contacts 10-3-16

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.

 

 

 


They Say a Week is a Long Time in Politics…Jamaica, February 25 – March 3, 2016

Thursday, February 25 – Election Day

Polls opened at 7:00am. Party leaders Portia Simpson Miller and Andrew Holness were among the more than 870,000 voters who went to polling stations to cast their ballots on Election Day.

Observer photo - Portia votes - 25-2-16holness votes 25-2-16                                     (Photo credits: Jamaica Observer & Reuters/Gilbert Bellamy)

I was one of many who posted photos of their inked fingers online.

election tweet inked finger 25-2-16

After the polls closed at 5:00pm, the counting began, as did the monitoring and discussions on radio, television and social media. And later that night, the Preliminary Count by the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) showed that the JLP had  won the election with 33 seats, to the PNP’s 30.

ECJ 10-26

Mr Holness gave his victory speech & PM Simpson Miller gave her concession speech.

 

election holness psm 3election - psm concession speech 25-2-16

Among those celebrating at JLP Headquarters on Belmont Road was former PM & JLP leader Edward Seaga.

election 2016 Seaga party HQ 25-2-16

Friday, February 26

Final counting for all constituencies across the island commenced, with counting taking place in the designated counting centres in each constituency except for five – St Andrew Eastern, St Ann South Western, St Mary South Eastern and St Catherine North Eastern which were being counted at the Head Office at Duke Street Kingston; and St James Southern which was being counted at the Regional Office in Montego Bay.

 

ecj prelim chart with turnout 26-2-16

Figures released based on the Preliminary Count indicated that the % voter turnout was the lowest for a General Election in Jamaica’s electoral history. (Except for 1983, when the PNP didn’t contest the election.)

Saturday, February 27

Following the Final Count for the St Mary South Eastern constituency, the PNP’s Winston Green was declared the winner, instead of the JLP’s Norman Dunn, who had been declared the winner on the night of the election. This meant that the result of the election stood at JLP: 32 and PNP: 31. Tensions heightened as, with the Final Count still going on in many constituencies, another seat changing from the JLP to the PNP would change the overall result of the election.

gleaner green wins by 9 votes 27-2-16

 

Sunday, February 28

Rumours and speculation increased. At one point in the day, a rumour spread that the JLP had lost another seat during the recount, but this was not so. PM Simpson Miller and Dr Horace Chang both issued statements amid the increasing tension.

Gleaner PSM urges calm - 28-2-16Gleaner Chang urges calm 28-2-16

Director of Elections, Orrette Fisher made the decision to move another constituency recount to the Head Office in Kingston, and this was done with the security forces escorting the ballot boxes from St Thomas to Kingston.

gleaner tweet election st thomas western 28-2-16

Monday, February 29

ecj 29-2-16 2

Dorothy Pine-McLarty, ECJ Chairman (right); Orrette Fisher, Director of Elections (2nd right)

The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) held a press conference to give an update on the Final Count of votes. They informed the country that the Final Count of votes had been completed in 62 of the 63 constituencies. The Final Count for the constituency of St. Thomas Western was being continued at their office at Duke Street and was subsequently completed later that day. Press conference statement

Tuesday, March 1

The ECJ confirmed the Final Count and the outcome of the election, and indicated that the results would be sent to the Governor General. The results represented the narrowest majority in seat count for a General Election in Jamaica.

eoj FB final count march 1 2016

Wednesday, March 2

The official announcement came that the swearing-in of Andrew Holness as Prime Minister would take place the following day.

opm swearing in announcement 2-3-16

Thursday, March 3

The Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen , presided over the ceremony held at King’s House, at which Andrew Holness took the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office and became  Prime Minister of Jamaica. PM Holness then delivered his inaugural address.

holness takes oath 3-3-16 2

The ceremony was attended by outgoing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, and the three other living former Prime Ministers – Bruce Golding, P.J. Patterson & Edward Seaga.

There were a number of musical items during the ceremony, but perhaps the highlight was the performance by Nesbeth, who sang his song My Dream, which had been used by the JLP during the campaign. The new PM joined him in singing.nesbeth holness tweet 3-3-16

As they say, a week is a long time in politics….

 

 

 

 


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Zika Virus News Events in Jamaica & Elsewhere

The past few days have been significant ones for news about the Zika virus.

who zika press conference 1-2-16

WHO Press briefing re Zika virus Feb 1, 2016

WHO Declares Public Health Emergency of International Concern

On Monday (Feb 1, 2016), the World Health Organization (WHO)  declared “that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and other neurological disorders reported in Brazil, following a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014, constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” (WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan’s statement) This decision was taken after the first meeting of the Emergency Committee which had been convened by the Director-General to look at these clusters in some areas now experiencing outbreaks of Zika virus. (WHO statement on 1st meeting of International Health Regulations Committee on Zika virus)

A Case of Sexually Transmitted Zika in Texas

zika - Dallas release 2-2-16 with highlightingThen yesterday came the headline-catching news from Dallas that the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) had confirmed a case of Zika virus infection which had been sexually transmitted. The Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) sent out a press release about the case. DCHHS Press Release re Sexually Transmitted Case of Zika Virus. A case of sexually transmitted Zika virus was recorded in 2008, but no cases during the current epidemic. (Listen to a 2011 CDC podcast about the 2008 case in Colorado.) Though the main mode of infection remains via the Aedes aegypti mosquito, this new case in Dallas does add another dimension to the current epidemic.

Two Briefings in the Wake of Jamaica’s First Confirmed Case of Zika Virus

Yesterday (Feb2, 2016) in Jamaica the Ministry of Health (MOH) held a press briefing, to update the country about the first confirmed case of Zika virus, which it had informed the public of last Saturday. Five Government Ministers addressed the briefing on aspects of the Government’s actions and plans regarding the Zika outbreak. Also in attendance were some Members of Parliament and Mayors, the MOH Permanent Secretary, the new Chief Medical Officer and a number of other government personnel.

Zika - GOJ press briefing 5 ministers - 2-2-16The Ministers (from left to right) were: Minister of Local Government & Community Development, Noel Arscott; Minister of Youth & Culture, Lisa Hanna; Minister of Information, Sandrea Falconer; Minister of Health, Horace Dalley and Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites.

The video of the press conference is posted online, with the Minister of Health’s comments about the first confirmed case and subsequent actions taken by his Ministry running from 10:37 – 16:46 of the video.

Among the things that Minister Dalley mentioned were that:

  • the child who was the 1st confirmed case of Zika has recovered & no other member of the family is showing symptoms of the disease
  • there is increased fever/rash surveillance in Portmore and the entire island
  • that 1894 households in the particular area have been checked & interviews done with 1355 people
  • that 15 blood samples were taken as a result of the interviews & were sent to the CARPHA lab in Trinidad for Zika testing

The presentations were followed by a question and answer session with journalists.

Last night, zika - PM Simpson Miller 2-2-16Prime Minister Simpson Miller made a national broadcast regarding the preparations to reduce the impact of the Zika virus (video).

Text of National Broadcast re Zika Virus by PM Simpson Miller

At 5:30 that evening, the University of the West Indies (UWI) Faculty of Medical Sciences in collaboration with PAHO/WHO and the MOH held a Public Symposium entitled “Zika Virus Update”. It is a pity that this symposium wasn’t broadcast or recorded, as it was an excellent session, with very informative presentations and a robust question and answer session.UWI Faculty of Med Zika Update 2-2-16 poster with border

The focus of this symposium was obviously different from that of the MOH press briefing in the morning and a great deal of medical and scientific information was given and issues explored. It was particularly useful to have information given about the Jamaican context for the Zika outbreak and the issues arising out of that context. I found Professor Christie’s presentation of particular interest, raising as it did issues about the seriousness of the situation being faced regarding our ability to deal with an increase in cases of children born with possibly severe microcephaly.

A few other issues that came up during the symposium:

  • the impact of the advice for women to postpone pregnancies, given the fact that 50-60% of pregnancies in Jamaica are unplanned
  • whether in Jamaica women will have the option of an abortion in cases of Zika infection
  • the complexities surrounding testing for Zika virus & Jamaica’s current and planned capability for doing such testing
  • whether the current levels of fever/rash surveillance are adequate or should be greatly increased during the early stages of the outbreak

Repeatedly the point was made regarding how much is not yet known about the Zika virus and the possible complications associated with this generally mild to moderate disease. The need for further and ongoing research was stressed, but as Professor Figueroa said, in public health, you need to take the best of what you know and act on it; you can’t tell patients to wait on the results of a study.

There is a need for more opportunities for professionals to share information of this kind regarding Zika, and to be able to answer questions and engage in discussions with members of the public. These opportunities mustn’t be scripted and limited, but must allow for the open exchange of information and for frank discussion. A wide range of options exists for sharing such information and they must be used.