How is it that some of the legislators we elected to the Jamaican Parliament are incapable of disagreeing on thorny issues without getting into a chaotic and abusive shouting match?
Jamaica’s Parliament is probably one of the most ordered places in the country, theoretically at least, in that there is a detailed set of rules (the Standing Orders) that govern almost every aspect of behavior in both Houses of Parliament.
They cover situations ranging from the language to be used (“the English language”) the need for Petitions to the House to be “properly and respectfully worded” to what should happen if two Members rise to speak during a debate (“the Speaker shall call upon the Member who first catches his eye”).
And to make it even more puzzling, many Parliamentarians are lawyers, who are trained to disagree agreeably, to call your opponent in court “mi learned friend” even when you think he’s a pompous ass, and to defer to judges with a polite “Guided, Milady” even while you plan your appeal on the grounds of the judge’s mistakes.
Others are successful professionals in other fields, or business operators, and would never, ever think it okay to respond to critics or opponents in the way we see them do in Parliament.
I wrote a post shortly after the new session of Parliament began, entitled “It’s Not Church!” The crux of my argument was that while we want civility, that can co-exist with lively exchanges, banter and spontaneity.
Unfortunately, that is not what we are talking about here. It is clear when someone has lost control or is refusing to exercise any self-control and that, too often, is what we see in the Jamaican Parliament. It is also clear when the comments and shouting have crossed the line into abuse.
Isn’t there something wrong with a display that would result in some of the following comments:
“But this fiasco on TVJ News showing the sectoral debates is EMBARRASSING. Look at these grown – leaders of our country – squabbling.”
“Seriously??? This is our parliament?”
And don’t tell me anything about physical brawls in the South Korean Parliament, eye-popping as those are.
Taiwan knows a thing or two about Parliamentary fights as well.
But you know what? I don’t care what they do in Taiwan and South Korea. We expect more from our legislators, dammit. We’ve seen the destruction, misery and death that politics has caused to our people and country, and we’re sick of it. We are now demanding better. We’re demanding more.
But while our politicians stand in Gordon House and mouth platitudes about a new way of doing things, when it really counts, some of them prove to us again and again that they don’t have the slightest idea what those words really mean.
- Five provisions of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)