[On The Cutting Edge]:::The priciples of parliamentary procedure and proper behaviour

No. 67 Wednesday, March 17, 2010
"There is a great need for more democratic policies on organization, communal and national levels ... Through the ages, parliamentary law has been introduced as organization principles-rules of conduct. It is based on freedom of speech, respect for .the dignity of man, equality and justice for all, the principle of majority rule, the right of the minority to be heard, and the duty to abide by the will of the majority ... " (From book entitled: Robert's Rules of Order)

    Last Wednesday an interesting spectacle took place in the sitting of Parliament; a spectacle which caught media attention and subsequently sparked public discussion.
According to media reports, the issue which was at the centre of it an had to do with the Electoral Commission's recommendation that three new constituencies (two of them in St. Catherine) be created, bringing the number of Parliamentary seats to 63 (up from the present 60).
    From a constitutional standpoint it could be viewed as a commendable move in that it would reduce the likelihood of having a tied General Election. But from an economical standpoint it could be viewed as a question­able move in that it would be more costly to the nation.
    One wonders why a reduction in the seats from 60 to 59 was not proposed by the Com­mission! After all, it quite likely would be less costly (at least in monetary terms) and it would further reduce the likelihood of having a tied General Election. This is so especially when it is borne in mind that 63, though not a multiple of 2, is a multiple of 3. What would happen in the future if there were 3 strong political parties each winning 21 seats in a General Election?
                    DUST SETTLED
    Be that as it may, the Member of Parliament for South West St. Catherine (Everald Warmington) reportedly expressed his disagreement with the proposed configuration for St. Catherine. Furthermore he argued that his opposition to the proposal should be recorded in a vote.
    According to The Sunday Gleaner (March 15, 2010): "Senior members of Mr. Warming­ton's Jamaica Labour party and the Opposition People's National party steamrolled the MP's legitimate request and the Speaker, Mr. Delroy Chuck, meekly acquiesced. Their contention was that a vote would undermine. the convention on how Parliament approves recommendations of the Electoral Commission and weaken the ability for future cross-party consensus on the commission's decisions."
    Soon after the MP for South West St. Catherine's request was denied, he verbally expressed his displeasure and then exited the House, as an apparent act of protest to the ruling.
    Now that the dust has literally settled since that unforgettable Parliamentary sit­ting, many individuals who are versed in Parliamentary Procedure have come out in. support of the stance taken by Mr. Warming­ton! They have done so because in principle his argument was right. For indeed he should have been allowed to have his dissenting vote duly acknowledged and recorded.
                    SAY AYE
    Unfortunately there have also been other times in media clips of Parliamentary sittings where one got the impression that "the right of the minority to be heard" was either overlooked or undermined. This is a growing concern!
    Take for instance how many 'motions' of the House have been dealt with over the years. Do you remember successive Speakers of the House stating (in reference to a 'motion' that was moved), "All in favour say aye ... Any against?" Have you ever noticed how quickly they said, "The ayes have it?" giving little or no time for a verbal response to the second option, especially if it is perceived that the 'motion' has the clear support of an overwhelming majority!
    There is also a growing concern in regards to the behaviour of some (thankfully not most) Parliamentarians, especially while they are in the House of Parliament. Proper Parliamentary Procedure should go hand-in-hand with proper Parliamentary behaviour!
    Therefore the increasingly popular practice of walking-out of the House of Parliament whenever one disagrees with a decision, should be discouraged. Also the constant heckling, name-calling, whispering and shuffling should be curtailed. And the boisterous, malicious, contentious and fractious talk should be prohibited.
    Surely these adjustments can and should be made without stifling vigorous debate and discussion in Parliament! 


No comments:

Post a Comment