Your article dated February 21, 2021 and titled “Committees in hibernation – Inertia takes over government-chaired parliamentary panels despite change promised by Holness” did not reveal any surprises to anyone who has not lived under a rock in the last three years or so. Rather, the article only reaffirms the inherent disposition of the Holness-led administration to suppress, by all available opportunity, any effort to make the conduct of its administration transparent to the Jamaican people. Since 2018, efforts have been made to reverse the initiative for greater transparency and, by extension, greater government accountability by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
It is unfortunate that instead of seeking to strengthen the effectiveness of oversight committees for want of meeting more frequently as it is claimed, the Prime Minister and his supporters in Parliament and outside have sought to take a backward step by locking the control of commissions! The fallacious excuse of the members cited in your article lacks sincerity. While the assertion that “nothing has been referred to committees by the whole House” may be true, it is also true that the House, with the majority of members of the government, has not referred and most likely will not refer any matter to a committee that could reveal administrative failures, dishonesty or the simple “theft” of public resources. There is absolutely nothing in the Standing Orders to support the claim that oversight committees can ONLY consider matters referred to them by the entire House.
On the contrary, Articles 73A, 73B and 73C of the Rules clearly set out the activities of the oversight committees for internal and external affairs, economy and production, human resources and social development, infrastructure and development. physical, from the Integrity Commission, WITHOUT any reference made by the whole house. In addition, the Plenary Assembly of at least 16 members MAY refer matters to a committee for further consideration and report to the Plenary Assembly.
It should be noted that the government never made available to the parliamentary opposition or the public any legal interpretation of the Standing Orders on this matter before jumping at Bolt’s speed to use his majority to take control of the Presidency. of these control committees. Again, this is consistent with this common practice of “tek all a we fi fou”.
In this regard, I invite some of our renowned jurists to put their intelligence and experience at the service of protecting the very essence of our democratic processes and the future of Jamaica, of which we all claim ownership. Indeed, ownership comes with certain responsibilities, and not just benefits. Some may have lent their voice, but it takes a lot more until the desired goals are achieved.
The arrogance of power and the affront of any attempt to question the actions of the government is manifested in the reluctance to act against members of the Cabinet who in the recent past have been found to be in default after investigations by the agencies. state, as in the cases of Petrojam, NESol, Universal Access Fund and the Caribbean Maritime University. On the contrary, those who lacked were later rewarded with promotions or greater responsibilities in the portfolio. It would not be unreasonable for anyone to expect those who are currently in court to be more rewarded once these issues are resolved there. We must keep in mind this adage which goes: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Such an intoxication of power makes victims not only of those who drink, but of everyone else around and with whom they meet.
Where is the public outcry against these atrocities of governance by our people, especially by those of us of conscience? It reminds us of the popular quote that says, “The only thing that allows evil to flourish is when good men (and women) do nothing.” We are going through a long period of high crime rates which are only getting worse with each passing day, to the point where too many Jamaicans, for partisan or other reasons, have become unresponsive to the killings. The same is now true of the failed management of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the positivity rate is among the highest in the world and infection levels have increased exponentially. However, compelling explanations abound for all of these confirmed failures.
The country’s affairs are everyone’s responsibility. Let’s do whatever we can. Hold those who should be held accountable without fear, no matter what position they occupy. Otherwise, we will all be guilty of our own omissions, as the Bible reminds us.
Fitz A. Jackson is the Member of Parliament for St Catherine South.