CHAIRMAN of the parliamentary committee (JSC) reviewing proposals for making Portmore Jamaica's 15th parish, Dr Andrew Wheatley says that the report will be tabled next week in Parliament.
Wheatley confirmed the date after last Thursday's final meeting of the committee, which completed the review process, which started last November, and approved the final drafts for tabling in Parliament.
He said that it will be tabled at the meeting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 12. However, he was less convincing about whether the legislative process will be completed before year end.
“Well, it is expected to be completed before the next local government elections, but that is depending on the legislative agenda for the rest of the year,” he told the Jamaica Observer. The next round of local government elections are expected by February 22, 2022.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie tabled a motion in the House of Representatives in November 2020, to empower Parliament to consider and report on the proposal.
But, despite positive responses from major government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) during the proceedings,which started last November shortly after the committee was named, the process has been hampered by the disparity between the two major political parties on the subject. While ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sees it as a follow-up on a promise made to the residents of Portmore prior to the 2020 General Election, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) sees it as a political plot to gain control of the municipality.
This has led to the decision by the Opposition members to attach a minority report to the substantive report to be tabled by the committee. But, Government members raised no objections to the minority report being tabled as well, although apart from a concern raised by minister without portfolio Everald Warmington that the process to decide whether it should be lodged did not follow the Standing Orders..
However, both sides accepted the fact that in keeping with the Standing Orders, a vote should have been taken after the request was made by Opposition at the previous meeting.
“The Standing Orders say they must seek leave of this committee, and the committee must grant that leave or reject the leave. But, no leave was sought of this committee,” Warmington noted.
Opposition MP Fitz Jackson (St Catherine Southern) said that while the minutes did not exactly capture everything, “one thing I can say is that I gave notice, and the committee acknowledged the notice”.
“Suffice it to say, and in conclusion, having done what we have done, I intend to speak for the other Opposition members [that] we are not making an issue about whether or not, at this time. We have the minority report before the committee. If the members want to reject the minority report it's your call,” he told the committee.
Warmington said that he had no problem with a minority report, as there have always been minority reports, “but, it must conform with the Standing Orders”.
Dr Wheatley said that while he agreed that there was a procedural error in the Opposition not seeking approval to table a minority report, he would allow for a vote on a decision, as the Government members were not averse to allowing the report to be tabled to correct the omission.
When the matter was put to a vote, Opposition members Jackson and Senator Floyd Morris supported it. Government Senator Sherene Golding Campbell opposed the move, and Opposition Senator Damion Crawford's position could not be ascertained due to the poor audio he suffered during the virtual meeting. The 2-1 majority was accepted, and the report was allowed.