New House Speaker Juliet Holness welcomed with open arms
New Speaker of the House of Representatives Juliet Holness (second right) is escorted to her seat by parliamentary colleagues Dr Michelle Charles (right), Juliet Cuthbert Flynn (left), and Krystal Lee on Tuesday. (Photos: Karl Mclarty)

THERE were loud cheers Tuesday as new Speaker of the House Juliet Holess took her seat in Parliament's Chambers after her election, which signalled the unanimous acceptance of her appointment by colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Holness – Member of Parliament for St Andrew East Rural – was elevated to this position following last week's resignation of the embattled former Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert.

Dalrymple-Philibert, who also resigned as MP for Trelawny Southern, was under mounting pressure to step aside following a damning report from the Integrity Commission which recommended eight criminal charges against her related to omissions she made on her statutory declarations for the period 2015 to 2021.

During Tuesday afternoon's nomination proceedings, MP for St James Central Heroy Clarke was elected deputy speaker, taking over from Holness who had been deputy speaker since the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) returned to power following its landslide victory in the September 2020 General Election.

New Deputy Speaker of the House Heroy Clarke, MP for St James Central, thanks members of the House after his election Tuesday.

There was much excitement as Holness was surrounded by three gleeful female parliamentary colleagues – Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, Krystal Lee, and Dr Michelle Charles – who took the new speaker to her seat when her nomination was affirmed.

Clerk to the Houses of Parliament Valrie Curis, who presided over the proceedings, asked three times if there were any other nominations to which there were loud "nos" from parliamentarians.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who nominated both Holness and Clarke, was the first to welcome the new speaker. He congratulated her for making herself available for the role and thanked the members for how supportive they were in her election.

Pointing out that Holness is someone he has known for over two decades, Chuck stressed that he has "absolutely no doubt that your competence, your skill, your intelligence will ensure that this Parliament is conducted orderly and in a way that the Jamaican people can be proud.

"I have no doubt that your management of this Parliament, as demonstrated when you were deputy speaker and also as a chairman of committee, will ensure that meetings are conducted without fear or favour, without bias and also to give the opportunity for all the members to participate and to make their voices heard; I have no doubt that your stint as speaker will be a sterling one," he said.

Chuck also extended the House's "thanks and appreciation to the outgoing speaker; we wish her well".

Leader of Opposition Business Phillip Paulwell, who seconded Holness's nomination, also congratulated her on the ascension to House speaker.

"Early in your tenure, it is my hope that both leader of government business and myself will be able to sit with you to look at some of the issues that we have had to deal with in the past and to see how we can share in our collective wisdom in the guidance that you will need from time to time from those of us in this chamber. We wish you well; we genuinely want you to do well so that your tenure can be very successful," he said

MP for St Mary Western Robert Montague, who added his voice to the congratulatory messages to Holness and Clarke, also praised Dalrymple-Philibert for her tenure as House speaker and MP, noting the "excellent service that she gave to her constituents and indeed to the people of Jamaica".

In her response, Holness thanked her colleagues for the confidence that they have shown in her ability to "handle the very difficult job of being the speaker of this Parliament".

"I accept my responsibility with great humility and I will always endeavor to ensure that I manage with equity, judiciously, [with] balance and always in keeping with the Standing Orders of this noble House," she said.

She further noted that the occasion is "the beginning of excellent camaraderie when a member from the Opposition side stands up to second the nomination of the member from the Government side for speaker or deputy speaker, and I hope as we continue to do our duties on behalf of the people of Jamaica, we will continue to display that type of relationship that keeps our House disciplined and orderly in the benefit of all the people of Jamaica".

Holness, at the same time, thanked her predecessor from whom she has "learned so much because of her leadership".

The new speaker noted that even after having resigned, the former speaker "spent every day" ensuring that she was fully prepared to take up the mantle upon her departure.

"Former Speaker, I personally thank you for your service and I am expecting that you will be there along with other former speakers, both here in the House and those who are in retirement, to continue to guide my hand," she said.

In the meantime, the new deputy speaker thanked his colleagues for appointing him and affirmed that he "will work diligently, along with my colleagues on both sides, to make sure that discipline and order continue to be in this House".

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter

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