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Hell in the House - Parliament ends sitting in confusion, disorder

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 04, 2012    

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YESTERDAY'S sitting of the House of Representatives ended in confusion and disorder, with Opposition MPs walking out of the chamber after the marshal tried to remove one its members, J C Hutchinson.

Government MPs aggressively shouted across the aisle at their Opposition counterparts who objected to the attempt by the marshal, Kevin Williams, to remove Hutchinson without following the proper procedure.

At the end of the sitting, House Speaker Michael Peart, who was absent during the uproar, returned

and apologised to the Opposition MPs in their conference room, for what he described as a "breach of procedure" committed by the marshal and Deputy Speaker Lloyd B Smith, who was acting in the chair at the time.

Peart explained that the proper procedure would have been for the acting speaker to name Hutchinson, after which the Leader of the House would have moved a motion for his suspension, only then would the marshall be instructed to carry out the ejection.

He said, however, that what had happened was that Smith had requested the clerk to instruct the marshal to stand by to eject Hutchinson if the situation deteriorated. The marshal proceeded to Hutchinson's seat and attempted to remove him. Opposition MP Everald Warmington told his colleague to stand his ground. The marshal retreated and the Opposition MPs walked out of the chamber after chastising the acting speaker for a clear breach of the Standing Orders which rule the conduct of MPs in the House.

The clash between both sides of the chamber occurred during responses from Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke to questions from Hutchinson on the sugar transformation process. The JLP MP warned the minister against the "colourisation" of national emblems and government-funded items in the agricultural sector.

Hutchinson claimed that the yellow in the national flag used on the cover of copies of speeches done by the Jamaica Information Service or the ministers had been changed to orange, and used copies of speeches by the two ministers who spoke yesterday — Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill, and Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna — as examples. Hutchinson also produced a copy of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's "Jamaica Gospel Song 2012" CD, which is titled, "Blow Ye The Trumpet", as another example of the politicisation of national items.

Government MP Raymond Pryce objected and shouted "sit down, sit down and shut up".

"Who you telling to sit down, boy. Damn out of order," Hutchinson reacted.

Pryce rose and gestured at Hutchinson across the aisle.

Pryce: You are not a gentleman.

Hutchinson: I am not a 'fish'.

Minister without portfolio, Horace Dalley, insisted (sotto voce) that the minister should not answer any more questions until Hutchinson apologised to Pryce. But, Clarke answered the question any way.

Some Government backbenchers also shouted "sit down, sit down". But Opposition MPs insisted that Hutchinson should get on with his questions. Eventually, the clerk beckoned to the marshal who walked to Hutchinson's seat, stood beside him for a while then attempted to remove him. Warmington warned the marshal to leave Hutchinson alone. Opposition MPs got up and started walking out of the House, claiming that the acting speaker had failed to act according to the Standing Orders.

After the Opposition walked out, House Leader Phillip Paulwell said that with the member who asked the questions absent from the House, he would table the rest of the answers. The House was then adjourned.

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