Use House brawl to instruct children how not to behave

Friday, April 27, 2018

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The shameful display of crassness that unfolded in the Parliament on Tuesday was, unfortunately, not the first such in our modern history.

All well-thinking Jamaicans, though, would hope that that was the last time the nation would be subjected to such uncouth behaviour in the country's highest court. But given how we have practised our politics we would not be surprised if the legislature descended into similar chaos in the near future.

What, we believe, made Tuesday's episode even more egregious is the fact that students, invited by the leader of Opposition Business Mr Phillip Paulwell, were in the gallery to listen to his sectoral presentation.

That they walked out during the loutish showdown between people from whom they should be receiving examples in decent behaviour was not surprising. In fact, the irony is that they were teaching adult politicians that their behaviour was bad.

Our fervent hope is that children, generally, will not regard what took place on Tuesday in Parliament as a measure of how they should conduct themselves. But who could blame them if they do? For, as we pointed out, this has happened before.

People who follow the happenings in the legislature will remember the nasty verbal brawl in the chamber in July 2012 when one member threw a derogatory street term to describe a homosexual at an opponent.

The following week, members of the House apologised for the uproar, which brought the sitting to a premature end, and promised a “new chapter” in their parliamentary behaviour. The Speaker at the time, Mr Michael Peart, described the episode as “disgraceful”.

Then prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, and the then Opposition leader, Andrew Holness, both criticised the behaviour of the Members and apologised to the Parliament and the nation.

The main players in the shameful behaviour also offered apologies and Speaker Peart, who was absent when the incident occurred, said he accepted their responses in good faith, and believed it was their collective will to “make significant improvements” in their behaviour inside the chamber.

However, Mr Peart said that the latitude given to Members of Parliament would have to be tightened “because, without Parliament under tight control, things might go wrong, again”.

But, as we saw on Tuesday, things have again gone wrong, this even after one of the members involved in that 2012 brouhaha promised that what took place would “never again occur”.

So, as we said, we would not be surprised if there is a recurrence of this type of almost barbaric behaviour in the legislature because it is quite obvious that there is very little regard for decency and the observance of proper parliamentary code among many of those who are privileged to be sitting in the House.

Maybe, though, the fracas could provide a good instructional aid to teachers who could use it to guide their students on the type of behaviour that is unacceptable. That way, we will hopefully avoid the stained legacy being left by the present lot who keep us wondering what they tell their own children about decency and respect for other human beings.

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