Speaker of the House of Representatives, Marisa Dalrymple-Phillibert is being investigated by the Integrity Commission in relation to her statutory declarations for the period 2015-2021 and specifically as it relates to the purchase of a motor vehicle in the amount of $6 million which was financed by a loan from Sagicor Bank.
While the Speaker tabled the report about the commission’s investigation into herself and referred the matter to two parliamentary committees for their deliberation, her refusal to entertain any questions from Opposition Leader Mark Golding led to a walkout by Opposition members.
This unfolded on Tuesday, the first sitting of the House of Representatives after the summer break.
Golding had risen to his feet after the Speaker told the House of Representatives that she was being investigated by the Integrity Commission and declared that “I have nothing to hide”.
She did not indicate from the speaker’s chair why, and for what she was being investigated by the commission. She insisted, after tabling the commission’s report, that the matter was being referred to the Parliament’s Integrity Oversight Committee as well as the Ethics Committee. She also stated that members will get an opportunity to debate the matter after the named committees conclude their deliberations.
She then immediately sought to continue with the agenda for the day’s sitting but Golding rose to his feet. After several minutes, with Dalrymple-Philibert upping the volume as she repeated her position that the matter will go before two committees and continued to outline the rest of the day’s agenda, Golding remained on his feet.
After it was apparent that the speaker would not yield, the Opposition Members of Parliament, led by Golding, walked out of the chamber.
OBSERVER ONLINE has since obtained a copy of a prepared statement from the speaker but which she did not read into the parliamentary records.
In it, she noted that the probe by the commission centred on her statutory declarations for the period 2015-2021.
“As required by law, I have always filed my statutory declarations and have done so in a timely and transparent manner given that I have nothing to hide,” she said.
Continuing, Dalrymple-Philibert outlined that in 2015, she applied for and obtained a motor vehicle concession to purchase a 2015 motor vehicle.
She said: “The vehicle was purchase(d) for Six Million Dollars ($6,000,000.00) and financed by a loan of Five Million Eight Hundred Thousand Dollars ($5,800,000.00) from Sagicor Bank. The loan was taken out by Lincoln Eatmon, my sister’s spouse and a deposit of $200,0000 sic was paid by both my husband and Mr Eatmon”.
According to the speaker, “The vehicle was used primarily by my sister, her spouse and her son (my nephew) and occasionally by me when I am in Kingston. This is due to the fact that my husband and I owned more than one motor vehicles and as a rural MP, I preferred driving a SUV because of the rough terrain that I am accustomed to traversing when in South Trelawny”.
Dalrymple-Philibert said that in using the concession to acquire the vehicle, “the government of Jamaica placed a 3 year restriction on my ability to sell or transfer the vehicle. The vehicle remained in my name and was never sold to anyone until over seven years later in May 2023. The vehicle was never sold to my sister, her spouse or any other family member”.
She also shared that Sagicor Bank placed a lien on the title until the loan was repaid in 2022- seven years later.
“Therefore, my ownership of the vehicle was a public record at the Tax Administration of Jamaica, the Bank, the Insurance Company and the Motor Vehicle Examination Department. As stated earlier, the vehicle was primarily used by my sister and her family and at the time of filing my statutory declaration, I honestly forgot about the vehicle and did not include it among the list of other vehicles I declared”.
Dalrymple-Philibert said when she was called by the Integrity Commission for a meeting, she reviewed her file thereafter and called the Clerk to the Houses of Parliament and requested a copy of the list of vehicles that she had acquired using a motor vehicle concession.
“Having received the list which confirmed the 2015 vehicle, I revealed to the Integrity Commission that the vehicle was unintentionally omitted from my statutory declaration,” she explained.
The speaker noted that the Integrity Commission Report, specifically at 5.2.0 page 34, “confirms that I have always been compliant in the filing of my statutory declaration ‘save and except for the omission’ of the vehicle, which therefore makes the declaration inaccurate and incomplete”.
“I am therefore surprised at the conclusion reached by the Integrity Commission, that I knowingly failed to declare the vehicle which was acquired via a loan.”
She also noted that the commission recommends at 5.3.6 on page 37 “that I resubmit a complete and accurate statutory declaration as required by law. I will do so by tomorrow, Wednesday, September 20, 2023”.
She has insisted that the omission was a genuine oversight.
Additionally, Dalrymple-Philibert, a trained lawyer, said the matter is now in the hands of her lawyers. She said she will allow due process to take its course. Her legal team is headed by Kings’s Counsel Peter Champagnie.