Lead by example

Lead by example

Remember that our contributions must rest on the foundations of mutual respect, new Speaker tells MPs

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

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NEWLY installed Speaker of the House of Representatives Marisa Dalrymple Philibert yesterday laid down the “Riot Act” to 60 Members of Parliament (MPs) sworn in at a meeting of the House of Representatives at the Jamaica Conference Centre.

Representatives of three constituencies were absent, as their ballots are either still being counted or, as in the case of Westmoreland Eastern, ended counting yesterday; nevertheless, the message was clear and well-received by those who were present at the first meeting of the House of Representatives since the September 3 General Election.

She took her cue from Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness who reminded her that with the swear-in completed, “the Parliament of Jamaica is now firmly and decisively been placed at ready to get down to business”.

In her opening statement to the House, Dalrymple Philibert responded that having been the Speaker of the House before, she was aware of the awesome task ahead.

“And so PM and members of the House, today I give you the assurance that the affairs of this House will not fall short of the highest standards,” she said to loud applause.

“Members, you can be assured that in discharging my duties I shall endeavour to be guided by the Standing Orders. I expect, and indeed I know, that we will continue to have robust debates in the House, and I also know that there will be occasions when the temptations will arise for strong political conviction to overrule all other considerations,” she stated.

“But, members, this is where I must caution us all, that it is in these moments that we must be our own judge, and we must remember always that our contributions to this House must rest on the foundations of mutual respect for each other and selfless service for the people of our country.

“Members of this House, we are the leaders of this nation and as leaders we have the responsibility to lead by example. Our children, our young adults, our men and women in this blessed country of Jamaica are expecting the highest standards of conduct from us, and so members, we will have order in this House. We will be respectful. We will not hesitate to represent our country in the best possible way.

“May I remind us all that we are not here as masters, just servants. Not to glory in power but to attest our loyalty to the controls laid down in the Standing Orders, and to the people of this country in whose name and by whose will we exercise our authority. Let us, therefore, not trust human efforts alone, but humbly acknowledge the power and the goodness of Almighty God,” she added.

Her fire might have frightened some of the members who recalled that she sat as Speaker of the House between July and December 2011, as the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) fought to stifle the flames arising from the Christopher “Dudus” Coke issue.

Holness said that he was very seized of all the challenges that the country is facing, but was very motivated and optimistic about “the energy, the skill, the thoughtfulness” of the team that had been assembled, not only on the Government side of the House, but of the entire Parliament.

“We will as a country recover stronger,” he told the MPs, as he recalled the speaker's four-month stint in the chair, and reminded her that a tremendous weight rested on her shoulders.

“But, we know that you will be prudent firm and fair, and I am confident that there will be order in this House,” he remarked.

The swearing-in ceremony which highlighted the meeting of the House of Representatives followed a similar event in the Senate which began at 10:00 am.

At this meeting, Senator Thomas Tavares Finson was returned as president, and Senator Charles Sinclair as his deputy. This was quite the opposite to what happened in the House of Representatives, where Juliet Holness was elected Deputy Speaker.

The increased number of female members of both Houses was a major topic at both swearing-in ceremonies, as 18 of the 63 elected Members of Parliament (MPs) were women. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith pointed out that there were now 38 women in both Houses.

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