Sunday 20 September, 2020

Holness implores MPs to put Jamaica's interest above all others

Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses the swearing-in ceremony for Members of Parliament on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses the swearing-in ceremony for Members of Parliament on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has implored new Members of Parliament to put Jamaica’s interest above all others as they embark on their journey in representational politics.

“Your first role is to the nation, your first priority is to look about Jamaica’s interest,” Holness told the new members of the House of Representatives  on Tuesday as he addressed the swearing-in ceremony to mark the start of the new parliamentary term.

The swearing-in ceremony came in the wake of the September 3 General Election which the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won in a landslide over the People’s National Party (PNP).

The majority of the new MPs sworn in on Tuesday are on the government side as the JLP won 49 seats to the 14 claimed by the PNP. The swearing-in ceremony took place inside the Jamaica Conference Centre rather than at Gordon House where the Parliament usually convenes. The change of venue was to ensure that proper social distancing could take place in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

MPs Swearing-in

Holness told MPs that they must quickly learn to prioritise.

”You’re also here as representatives so …you must pay attention to the needs of your constituency – water, roads, employment, and all the other issues, and of course there’s always the not so hidden hand, you’re here representing your party,” the prime minister stated.

He added that “If you stack all of these roles in the order that I’ve put them then you should all do a good job. Jamaica first, your constituency and your other political obligations, but we must always remember, we’re here for Jamaica’s interest above all else”.

Holness said that in the previous term, the government was able to achieve some amount of cooperation with the Opposition. He pointed to the national consensus on crime agreement that was signed by the government and Opposition as well as civil society and other interests shortly before the elections. He said more of that kind of cooperation would be needed going forward, including with the private sector to ensure the country’s economic recovery.

The prime minister also said he took Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips at his word that there needs to be a greater sense of cooperation between the two sides in order for the country to overcome the challenges it faces. Phillips, who had spoken before Holness, highlighted the surging number of COVID-19 cases on the island and the attendant economic fallout as major problems that must get priority treatment.

According to the prime minister, the spirit of cooperation will work to Jamaica’s benefit as long as each member commits to put country first in order of priority.

To this end, he said that despite his party’s overwhelming majority, he has no intention of proceeding in a way that would ignore the views of the Opposition.

"It is my intention to continue in a spirit of cooperation and building partnerships for a prosperous Jamaica,” said Holness.

-- Lynford Simpson

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