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Leaders, MPs apologise over Parliament brawl

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2012    

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MEMBERS of Parliament (MPs) yesterday promised a "new chapter" in their parliamentary behaviour, as they apologised for last Tuesday's uproar which brought the sitting to a premature end.

"I expect that, as of today, we will turn a new chapter in the life of this Parliament," Speaker Michael Peart stated, after describing last week's episode as an "unfortunate disruption", and the MPs behaviour as a "disgraceful episode".

After speeches from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness, both of whom criticised the behaviour of the MPs and apologised to the Parliament and the nation for their behaviour, there were apologies from the main players in the uproar. Peart, who was absent when the incident occurred, said he accepted their responses in good faith and believed it was their collective will to "make significant improvements" in their behaviour inside the chamber.

However, he said that the latitude given to MPs would have to be tightened "because without Parliament under tight control, things might go wrong, again". Peart then urged the MPs to apologise "without any excuse or explanation and no attempt to justify what expired", as the rules of Parliament require members (on their feet) to be heard in silence.

Apologising were Deputy Speaker Lloyd B Smith, and backbencher Raymond Pryce (North East St Elizabeth) of the Government side, and spokesman on agriculture and fisheries, JC Hutchinson, and MP Everald Warmington (South West St Catherine) from the Opposition. Leader of the House, Phillip Paulwell, and leader of Oppositon business, Delroy Chuck, also spoke.

Smith, a newcomer representing Central St James, who was in the chair when the incident occurred, admitted that the situation was "most unfortunate and most disgraceful".

He said that he "unreservedly" and "with much humility" apologised for the "procedural error" he committed in not following the Standing Orders in seeking to have Hutchinson ejected for refusing to sit down.

Pryce, who quoted extensively from speeches made by People's National Party (PNP) founder Norman Manley, claimed that he did not make the statements attributed to him in the exchange with Hutchinson. However, he apologised for speaking out of turn and for interrupting the question-and-answer session involving Hutchinson and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke.

Hutchinson said whatever differences there were have been resolved. He said that the incident was regrettable and assured the speaker and members that "whatever occurred last week will never again occur".

Warmington said that his behaviour was triggered by the failure of the speaker and House staff to observe the rules of the House.

"I have met with the Marshal and he has accepted my sincere regrets," said Warmington, who was accused of abusing the Marshal when he went to remove Hutchinson.

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