Deputy clerk relishes uproars in Parliament

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Deputy clerk relishes uproars in Parliament

Valrie Annie Curtis and Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson among 2020 national honourees

By Balford Henry
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 06, 2020

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A number of Jamaicans are upset when the media reports on “uproars” and “walkouts” in the Jamaican Parliament at Gordon House.

But for 25-year veteran deputy clerk to both Houses of Parliament, Valrie Annie Curtis, it is simply indicative of a dynamic Parliament.

“This is a wonderful, dynamic place to be working from. It is dynamic and it is democracy at work. We don't expect it to be quiet. It is not a Sunday school, and I have become so used to it that I know that when I start getting tired of it, it is time to leave the job,” she told the Jamaica Observer yesterday about her experiences over the past quarter-century.

Curtis and president of the Senate Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson are among the Jamaicans who have been named to be honoured in the National Honours and Awards for 2020.

Senator Tavares-Finson is a member of the Bar Association of Jamaica, the Advocates Association of Jamaica and the Lay Magistrates' Association. He is also a nominated commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) since 2006 and a member of the Central Executive and Standing Committee of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

The senator is a nephew of JLP stalwart and former minister of housing David Clement Tavares, who died of a heart condition in 1968, a year after he lost the race to succeed Sir Donald Sangster as party leader and prime minister immediately after the 1967 general election to Hugh Shearer by just one vote.

The 67-year-old senator, a past student of Jamaica College, who later pursued tertiary studies at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and University of London is a member of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. He was called to the English Bar in 1979 and subsequently called to the Jamaican Bar in 1981. He is primarily a criminal trial advocate.

He was appointed to the Senate by Edward Seaga in 1980, after the JLP's massive 51-9 victory over the People National Party (PNP), and served until 1983. In the meantime, he was unsuccessful in several attempts to be elected to the House of Representatives. He returned to the Senate in 2007 and was appointed president in February 2016, following the last general election.

Senator Tavares-Finson is an avid art collector who enjoys reading in his spare time, and is currently the chairman of the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Curtis, a former teacher, was born in Aboukir, St Ann, after training as a teacher at Moneague College formerly Moneague Teachers' College in the same parish. She taught at the Penwood High School in Kingston, after moving to Kingston in 1986 to attend The University of the West Indies (UWI) where she read for her first and second degrees.

However, she left teaching in 1995, after she was employed, through Office of the Services Commission, as an assistant clerk and served under Shirley Lewis. She returned to The University of the West Indies where she earned a law degree, and eventually entered the Norman Manley Law School in 2010 and was called to the Bar in 2012.

She said that on joining the staff at Gordon House, she found it “a wonderful and dynamic place to be working from”.

“Every day I have a new experience, and I have travelled all over the world to meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), and I have met so many wonderful people in the process,” she added.

“It is really beautiful working with the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, and I consider myself a neutral person. I have heard about 'the nonsense of neutrality', but as a civil servant I believe people can remain neutral in performing duties like these,” she said.


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