Jamaica’s Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment-Brown, and the Jamaica Teacher’s Association (JTA) Secretary General Byron Farquharson have chastised the behavior of parliamentarians Daryl Vaz and Dayton Campbell in Gordon House on Tuesday.
Vaz, who is the JLP’s Member of Parliament for Portland West, traded insults with the PNP’s Dayton Campbell, the St Ann North West MP over the ongoing issue of the state of the Cornwall Regional Hospital. The heated exchange forced House Speaker Pearnel Charles to adjourn the sitting and stormed out of Parliament as tempers flared.
The uproar came after Vaz suggested that Campbell was conflicted in his utterances about CRH disclosing that Campbell works at a health facility in St James which would benefit from the closure of the hospital.
The claim drew the ire of Campbell who rubbished Vaz’s insinuations. Both men stood and traded insults with Vaz appearing to be challenging Campbell on camera to a fist fight outside.
In a telephone interview with Jamaica Today, Parchment-Brown lambasted the actions of the politicians and demanded that action be taken.
“The office of the Political Ombudsman views with dismay and distress the report of the conduct in Jamaica’s Parliament in the Lower House yesterday,” she said.
Campbell attempted to leave his seat when challenged by Vaz but was held back by a colleague who urged him to remain calm. The Ombudsman described the behavior as irresponsible and needed proper reproach.
“If it was a class at high school, or a primary or basic school, or even a congregation at a church, I would expect the people who are in Parliament to have adverse statements to make about those things. So it is not surprising that myself, and many other Jamaicans are deeply hurt, disappointed and ashamed of what occurred yesterday and we expect some actions (to be taken),” she said.
A large number of students from schools in the Corporate Area and Clarendon walked out of the sitting as both sides of the aisle shouted at each other. When it was put to the JTA’s secretary general, he expressed a great deal of concern for the behaviors that he described as “childish”.
“Well, my initial reaction is a response to base on what I heard and, as we know, seeing and hearing are two different things. Having said that, what I hear does not sound good coming from people who are lawmakers of this country. It does not suggest to be mature behavior; it sounds very childish. It does not sound like a good role model for our children to emulate in the future,” Farquharson said.
In another disturbing occurrence at Tuesday’s sitting, the Leader of the Opposition Peter Phillips, was seen on camera giving ‘the finger’ to Members of Parliament across the aisle while on his feet.
In response, G2K, the young professional affiliate of the Jamaica Labour Party, issued a statement demanding an immediate apology from Phillips to the students, who were in Parliament to hear their MP’s speak at the opening of the Sectoral Debate, which had to be postponed because the meeting could not move beyond the noisy and threatening exchanges.
Renowned attorney Bert Samuels opined that a review of the Parliamentary privilege must be conducted in order to reduce the possibilities of such situations reoccurring.
“It (the uproar) shows that the Parliamentary privileges may need to be revisited because it gives an open ticket for bad behavior. The television cameras are bringing the conduct into our homes and our children will be pointing a finger to say we are not setting a good example. That is my general view of the issue,” he said.
Parchment-Brown said if politicians continue to disregard the agreement and declaration on political conduct signed in Gordon House in 2005, situations will only get worse.
“A part of the spirit of that was how do the political parties get to a point that they work in a way that promotes Jamaica’s welfare and reduces the potential for mal-administration; and we recognized that where our leaders are not able to discuss in a reasonable manner, any matter of interest to the public, to arrive at a timely conclusion and arrive at action, then we are on a path of mal-administration,” she said.
Campbell, in his presentation, accused Tufton of misleading the House in relation to the period within which evacuations began in sections of the hospital.
In his defence, the Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton described Campbell’s remarks as unbecoming and misleading.