Holness warned refusal to apologise to Curtis will ‘dog’ speakership Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Phillip Paulwell, has warned Speaker of the House, Juliet Holness, that her refusal to withdraw a letter of reprimand and apologise to Valrie Curtis, the former Clerk to the Houses of Parliament, will “dog” her speakership for the rest of the term.

Paulwell gave the warning on Tuesday as he made his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in his capacity as the shadow minister for energy and climate change.

Former clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Valrie Curtis

His repeated call for Holness to withdraw the letter and apologise follows that of the 11-member strong Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions on Monday in a letter to The Gleaner newspaper.

The JCTU said Holness should do both.

Holness was absent from Tuesday’s sitting of the House with her deputy, Heroy Clarke, occupying the speaker’s chair. However, that did not stop Paulwell from addressing her.

“You have asked that the Standing Orders be reviewed to provide you with guidance as to the tabling of reports from the auditor general and the Integrity Commission. With respect, Madam Speaker, the rules that currently exist are quite fine and must not be adjusted in any way,” Paulwell stated.

He added: “We do need new rules to restore the chairmanship of the several oversight committees to the Opposition. And, Madam Speaker, we must better define the relationship between yourself and the administrative staff of Parliament.

“Needless to say, I will again call upon you to withdraw that egregious letter that was sent to the former clerk along with an appropriate apology,” he said.

Paulwell told Holness that “this matter will dog you for the rest of your term as speaker if you don’t do the right thing to restore equilibrium and working relationships within this honourable House”.

Holness, like her predecessor Marissa Dalrymple-Philibert, had sought an opinion from the attorney general regarding the tabling of reports from the Auditor General’s Department and the Integrity Commission. By convention, those reports are tabled almost as soon as they arrive at the Parliament.

Both Dalrymple-Philibert and Holness were told by the attorney general that the established convention broke no laws but Holness continued to delay the tabling of some reports from the AGs department for several months, until she relented on April 23 when she tabled the opinion from the Attorney General’s Chambers in the Parliament.

Her public letter of reprimand to Curtis, one week before the former clerk was to proceed on retirement on April 6, and in which she accused Curtis of disregarding her instructions, was copied to the other 62 members of parliament.

Curtis had a distinguished career for the 28-and-a-half years she served the Parliament. She has since said publicly that she did not disregard the speaker’s instructions.

The speaker and several members of the Government, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, paid glowing tribute to Curtis during the sitting of the House on April 23 in her absence.

The speaker mentioned that the letter was not placed on the file of the former clerk but she has refused to apologise or withdraw the letter.