Holness praises Curtis but did not apologise or withdraw letter Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Juliet Holness, on Tuesday paid glowing tribute to Valrie Curtis, the recently retired Clerk to the Houses of Parliament who demitted office amid controversy after she was publicly upbraided by Holness.

Just over a week before she was due to retire on April 6, after serving the Parliament for nearly 30 years, Curtis was chastised, supposedly for not complying with the Speaker’s instructions on how reports from the Auditor General’s Department should be tabled in the Parliament. The letter was copied to all Members of Parliament.

Curtis recently told The Gleaner newspaper that she complied fully with the Speaker’s instructions.

It is not certain that the usually reserved Curtis will appear in the Parliament for lawmakers to pay tributes in her presence, as several have indicated that they would like. As a result, for two consecutive sittings of the House, tributes were paid in an ad hoc manner with Opposition members who have demanded that Holness withdraws the letter and apologise, mostly refusing to participate.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Juliet Holness

On Tuesday, Holness heaped praise on Curtis but did not apologise or withdraw the letter.

“…It is my privilege and, indeed, my duty to take the lead in acknowledging Ms Valrie Curtis for her long and dedicated service to this Parliament,” Holness began. 

“This journey began when she joined the staff of the Parliament as assistant clerk in 1995 and continued as she worked her way to being appointed deputy clerk in 2006. Her commitment to duty saw her being elevated to the position of clerk to the houses in 2021 and since that time she has commendably led her staff in providing the necessary procedural and administrative support to members of both houses,” she continued.

Holness noted that during her time at Parliament, Curtis displayed a commitment to upholding parliamentary ideals even as she displayed a people-centred approach to parliamentary administration, while overseeing several initiatives aimed at modernising parliamentary operations.

“Throughout her tenure, she represented Jamaica at parliamentary conferences across the globe and was integral to the staging of international parliamentary conferences here in Jamaica, as well as the hosting of myriad visiting international delegations to the Parliament.

“Ms Curtis has been recognised by the Government of Jamaica for her contribution to the Parliament through the conferment of the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service as well as the Order of Distinction, in the rank of Commander in 2014 and 2020, respectively,” Holness added. 

She stated: “Our differences in perspective on a particular administrative matter and the resulting procedural communication to her (which was never a part of her HR record), but which has unfortunately been circulated in the public domain, was never intended to detract from her years of service and valuable contribution to the Parliament.

“It is important for me to state that I continue to hold the retired clerk in high regard and acknowledge her contribution and not allow that to be overshadowed for any reason,” Holness said.

The Speaker stated that the former clerk has left an indelible mark on the Parliament, “and it is our hope that she will enjoy her well-deserved retirement”.

Among other Government members paying tribute to the former clerk on Tuesday were Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Leader of Government Busines in the House, Edmund Bartlett, and Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Western, Everald Warmington, who described her as one of the greatest clerks the Parliament has seen.  

Leader of Opposition Business, Phillip Paulwell, said Opposition members were ready to pay tribute if/when Curtis, who is reportedly off the island, is present.