THE Senate failed again Friday to deal with the Campaign Finance recommendations from the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ).
The recommendations were on the Senate's agenda to be debated the previous week, but the senators said that they had funerals to attend and the debate was postponed. They were not included in the agenda for last Friday and therefore were not debated.
Senators insist that there is no sinister move behind the delay, and that it is merely a matter of timing. However, it was unfortunate that while the Senate accepted the need for members to attend funerals the week before, there was no explanation as to why it was not debated last Friday.
The report was approved in the House of Representatives on September 24, but only after Leader of the House, Phillip Paulwell compromised by giving an undertaking that when the Bill is drafted and sent to Parliament from Cabinet, it will be referred to joint select committee of both Houses.
Opposition MPs fall short
The absence of Opposition members from meetings of the House of Representatives and select and joint select committees must be raising some concerns for the scheduling of meetings.
Most committees have been meeting on a regular basis, but with barely more than a quorum, and committees chaired by Opposition MPs sometimes end up being chaired by Government MPs, which goes against the grain of the principle that seeks to ensure Opposition oversight in particular matters.
For the past two weeks Government MPs, including Fitz Jackson (South St Catherine) and Denise Daley (South Central St Catherine), have shared the chair with chairman Edmund Bartlett, and fellow Opposition MP Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, of the PAAC.
At least Bartlett and Dalrymple-Philibert turn up for meetings, although they have been leaving early or sending in apologies, but there are others who do not even send in an apology for their absence, which is an issue that must be addressed by the Speaker at some stage.
The Opposition MPs missed a glorious opportunity to target the Government's economic team — Financial Secretary Devon Rowe, BOJ Governor Bryan Wynter and PIOJ Director General Colin Bullock — last week when the PAAC discussed Ministry Paper 116/13, which covered the first quarterly review of the Extended Fund Facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The meeting ended with MP Daley in the chair, and only one Opposition MP, Mike Henry, still present.
It is obvious that the country is currently not benefiting from the representation of Opposition MPs in the House of Representatives when it sits, as well as in the meetings of the various select and joint select committees. This is likely to continue until after the Opposition settles its leadership issue next month, but it is a great loss to the country and, especially, the people who elected these MPs.
***Financial Secretary Devon Rowe has pointed out that Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips had committed last year to an extension of the programme for the Junior Stock Exchange for five more years. However, he suggests that there may be some changes under the Omnibus Legislation.
Rowe told Wednesday's meeting of the PAAC that, as the Government considers the wider tax reform programme which includes the much-anticipated Omnibus Legislation, persons on the Junior Stock Exchange should "avail themselves of the provisions that may be coming down the road".
"But, at this point, there is no real consideration of any major change in the arrangements, and the minister has already indicated that it will be extended for another five years," Rowe pointed out.
Rowe also noted that the Omnibus Legislation, which should have been tabled by the end of September, will be tabled soon in Parliament and will provide all the details associated with the stock exchange.
This week in Parliament
The Internal and External Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday morning at 10:00, to be followed by the sitting of the House of Representatives at 2:00 pm.
On Wednesday, PAAC will meet at 10:00 to hear an update from the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, to be followed by a meeting of the Joint Select Committee selected to review the newly tabled Security Interest in Personal Property bill at 2:00 pm.
The Senate will sit on Friday at 10:00 am.