Council of Churches ‘deeply concerned’ with running of Parliament Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) has welcomed the tabling of the long-delayed Auditor General’s reports in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 26.

The reports were tabled almost two months after they were first sent to Parliament in late January, based on a controversial ruling by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Juliet Holness.

The reports were sent back to the Auditor General’s Department before they were finally laid on the table of the House.

The ruling by Holness, and her steadfast refusal to share an opinion from the attorney general, which she said guided her decision about how reports from the Auditor General’s Department and the Integrity Commission should be tabled, led to an uproar and subsequent walkout of the House by Government members on March 19. The walkout that was led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, followed criticism of the speaker by Opposition Leader Mark Golding, who questioned her independence.

The speaker is the wife of the prime minister.

The JCC in a statement from its President, Bishop Christine Gooden-Benguche, said the tabling of the AG’s reports “has come at a time when there have been heightened concerns and expressions regarding the need for public access to, and examination of, the reports from the oversight institutions in our nation.”

The influential umbrella church group said it is “deeply concerned with the direction in which the proceedings of the Parliament have transpired, and how matters of a delicate nature have been handled.”

It added that, “We note that some important constitutional and procedural questions have been raised, and wonder if some of these could not be resolved by greater levels of dialogue and disclosure. In this regard, the nation awaits the benefit of the willingness of our leaders to share the legal opinion from the attorney general regarding the tabling of reports.”

Elaborating, the JCC said “Further, we look forward to outcomes in the near future that will stem the tide of mistrust of our Government and its leaders, as we believe that the high levels of mistrust that exists in our society can only lead to more deviance, disorder and non-compliance.”

The group said the nation looks forward to the promotion of the common good from the highest political authority in the land, the Parliament.

“Therefore, we beseech our parliamentarians to encourage and display the deepest sensitivity towards collaboration and collegiality. We also earnestly encourage our leaders to engender a strong appetite for dialogue and consultation, even as the constitutional power of discretion is exercised.

“Further, we humbly encourage them to practise a model of leadership that privileges the ethic of community, prioritises national and public interests, and portrays cordiality, collegiality and cooperation.”