The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) is accusing the government of attempting to silence its members in Parliament through the implementation of a new microphone system.
Natalie Neita-Garvey, Acting Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Parliament, and Senator Peter Bunting, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, said in a joint statement that the new microphone system gives the Speaker power to control who speaks.
“The implementation of this microphone system by the Andrew Holness-led JLP government appears to be an attempt to control the Opposition’s ability to hold the Government to account on behalf of the people,” the release stated.
“We had repeatedly voiced our concerns about the former Speaker’s partisan management of the processes in the House. Now, with this new power, the Speaker will be able to muzzle whoever they don’t want to hear, simply by not activating their microphone,” it added.
The PNP alleged that since-resigned House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert used the new system to silence Opposition members in Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives as questions on the Integrity Commission investigation into her statutory declarations were being raised.
“On Tuesday, the very day that the new microphone system was being introduced for the first time, the Speaker used it to prevent the Opposition from being heard on a most critical matter that had brought her own status as Speaker into serious question. Only government members were permitted to speak, while the Opposition members were denied, as if our Parliament had become a kangaroo court,” the PNP said.
“This incident suggests an institutionalized strategy aimed at silencing the Opposition in Parliament, especially when it comes to the most critical matters. It undermines the core principles of parliamentary democracy, including robust debate, accountability, and checks and balances,” it added.
The Opposition called on Jamaicans to join it in condemning the development which it described as “dangerous”, a “slide towards autocracy within the House” and “an abuse of power”.