Golding, Paulwell clarify positions re Juliet Holness as House Speaker Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Two high-ranking officers of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) have sought to provide more details on why the party is now taking issue with the appointment of Juliet Holness, the wife of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, as House Speaker.

The PNP, through its Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Phillip Paulwell, had supported Holness’ appointment to the position in September of 2023.

Paulwell is now indicating that he did so out of what he said was “tradition”, while Opposition Leader Mark Golding said the party was not “consulted” about the then pending appointment.

Surprisingly, Golding on Tuesday stated that the appointment of the prime minister’s wife to the position House Speaker “does not sit well with tradition that the (House) speaker must act independently of the Government of the day.”

The statement from Golding then triggered a walkout by the prime minister, followed by members of the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and subsequent verbal exchanges between Opposition members and controversial House member, Everald Warmington.

Phillip Paulwell

At a press briefing after the walkout which brought a premature end to Golding’s contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament, Paulwell defended his decision to give support to Mrs Holness’ appointment as House Speaker last year.

He said it has never happened (locally) where an Opposition political party “objects” to the individual who has been chosen by the governing party to take the role of House speaker.

“… And we’re fulfilling a tradition; it has happened when we are Government, and I have been a longstanding member of the Parliament, and… I believe it will continue to happen that the formality of electing a speaker is just that,” Paulwell said.

“The Government has the majority here in the Parliament (and) can elect whoever it wishes. It is the tradition of the Opposition to second it, and, in fact, a vote was taken and it was passed,” he recounted.

Golding said he “was not sitting in judgment” relative to Paulwell’s actions, as he (Paulwell) was put in a position with no prior consultation.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding 

“He (Paulwell) came to Parliament (last September). I wasn’t there, and he was presented with a script by the clerk (of the House) and told this was the tradition,” said the PNP president.

But pointing to Mrs Holness’ handling of the tabling of reports from the Integrity Commission and the auditor general since she took on the position as House Speaker last September, Golding said her performance has given rise to what he said are concerns.

He also criticised Holness’ conduct in not making public the attorney general’s opinion relative to the tabling of reports.

“I made a point of principle that it doesn’t sit well with the tradition in our Parliament system, which requires the speaker of the House (of Representatives) to be independent of the Government, (and) for the wife of the prime minister who is the head of Government to be the speaker, which is effectively the head of Parliament.

“These concerns are not just my concerns. Many Jamaicans feel that way.

“In fact, the international community also has concerns about it, because it’s really a very unusual situation and, indeed the prime minister who, in an emotional fit, stood up and walked out … really, himself, reinforced the validity of the point,” Golding stated.

The PNP is yet to decide whether it will turn up for the prime minister’s contribution to the Budget Debate on Thursday.