The office of Speaker must be beyond reproach
Mrs Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert

In our view, Mrs Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert acted correctly yesterday when she announced her resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives following the Integrity Commission's ruling that she should be charged in relation to statutory declarations.

This newspaper believes much controversy and unhealthy drama could have been avoided had she stepped aside as Speaker earlier this week when the report from the Integrity Commission was tabled in Parliament.

For those who came in late, Mrs Dalrymple-Philibert is facing eight charges relating to a car which she had bought through a duty concession afforded to legislators but which she failed to declare in her statutory filings.

She has insisted that she "genuinely" forgot about the car, a Mercedes Benz, when she made the declarations.

That aside, we confess that, like many other Jamaicans, we were taken aback by Mrs Dalrymple-Philibert's announcement that she also intends to resign as Member of Parliament for Trelawny Southern, a seat she has held for four terms.

Obviously, she was not obligated to relinquish her parliamentary seat — which she gained due to the will of the voters in Trelawny Southern.

Her resignation — if carried through — will obviously have longer-term political implications with two years remaining in the parliamentary election cycle. Would Prime Minister Andrew Holness feel compelled to call a by-election?

Let's not forget that this is a time when polls have suggested the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government is losing favour among the populace. Also, of course, local government elections are due by early next year.

It would not be unprecedented for a parliamentary seat to stay vacant until general elections which, under Jamaican law, can be called at any time by the prime minister within the remaining period of the five-year cycle.

Clearly hurting, Mrs Dalrymple-Philibert tells us that the controversy has taken an "immense" toll. Says she: "There would have been no allegations against my name had I included the vehicle in my declaration; therefore, I had no motive to have deliberately omitted it.

"Since the Integrity Commission has decided to charge me criminally for an omission, I have considered the damage this has done to my reputation and have decided to tender my resignation both as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Member of Parliament for South Trelawny, with immediate effect.

"What has happened to me could have happened to any other Member of the Parliament, public servant, or civil servant..."

She, quite rightly,wants the matter "concluded in a court of law rather than a court of public opinion".

We believe it important that this episode should be seen in the context of the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives. That office should be above the fray at all times.

So that while the individual, Mrs Dalrymple-Philibert, is caught in an unfortunate firestorm, her resignation has served to protect that high office.

We are also reminded that those who come forward as the elect of the people are burdened with responsibilities, which many, if not most of us, would instinctively avoid.

It's a humbling thought.

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