COVID restrictions mute ceremonial opening of ParliamentFriday, February 19, 2021
BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
The usual spectacle associated with the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament at Gordon House on Duke Street, downtown Kingston, was muted yesterday as COVID-19 gathering restrictions kept supporters of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) mostly away.
A small group of PNP supporters, who stood at the intersection of Duke and Sutton streets, expressed regret at not being allowed an up close view of the Jamaica Defence Force Guard of Honour, arrival of the governor general and that of Members of Parliament (MPs).
“I am very disappointed,” Doreen Davidson, a supporter of St Andrew Southern MP and Opposition Leader Mark Golding, told the Jamaica Observer.
“I came here this morning to see the proceedings and I want to know why we can't go no further than this. I come here every year and usually we can go up to the girl's school (St George's),” the woman lamented.
Beverly Watson, a supporter of former PNP President Dr Peter Phillips, said she had come to support the St Andrew East Central MP.
Dr Phillips was notably absent from the group of the Opposition MPs who made the traditional walk up Duke Street to Gordon House together.
“I am here to support Peter Phillips, although I am disappointed because every year a lot of us are here to support the People's National Party,” said Watson.
There was no gathering of JLP supporters at the other end of Duke Street.
House leader Edmund Bartlett, in an early release, had described the restrictions as necessary, given the country's current COVID-19 situation.
“As parliamentarians, it is our duty to demonstrate to our fellow Jamaicans that we should do everything possible to prevent the contraction and spread of the COVID-19 virus, and if we can do this for as important an occasion as the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament, there is no excuse for any Jamaican to ignore the Ministry of Health and Wellness' COVID-19 guidelines,” said Bartlett.
Changes to the ceremony, which is a sitting of the Senate to which MPs are invited, included a reduction in the number of parliamentarians attending from 84 to 59. The number of parliamentarians participating in traditional 'march to Gordon House' was also limited.