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Parliamentary Commissions will soon be able to appear before a House Committee, to clarify issues pertaining to their stewardship, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Delroy Chuck, has disclosed.
Speaking at the Office of the Children’s Advocate’s (OCA) inaugural Media Appreciation Breakfast at the Alhambra Inn, Kingston, on Thursday(June 11), Mr. Chuck said that the OCA, as well as the offices of the Public Defender and the Contractor General, are the first bodies who are expected to be heard by the Committee.
This decision arose out of concerns raised by Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, that Parliament is not adequately addressing issues affecting her office, particularly where recommendations are made.
“Every year, Commissions of Parliament send annual reports. Some of these are bulky, very important, but very few people read them, which is the problem. I am aware that there are many recommendations that need responses,” the Speaker said.
“We have taken a decision in Parliament, having spoken to the Deputy Speaker and the Clerk of Parliament, that at least once per year these Commissions and I am speaking of three at the moment – the Children’s Advocate, the Public Defender and the Contractor General, will appear before a Committee of Parliament,” he added.
Mr. Chuck said that this will give the Commissions the opportunity to highlight aspects of their reports, express the concerns of their office and communicate their hopes or needs for the following year.
He said that it would also allow them to respond to concerns that the public may express about the functions of their offices.
A Committee, headed by Deputy Speaker of the House, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, currently reviews annual reports tabled by Government bodies and agencies and is likely to be responsible for dealing with reports from the Commissions.
Mr. Chuck commended the work being done by the media to highlight some of the activities of the OCA, which he described as one of Jamaica’s “success stories”. However, he lamented that more could be done to promote its activities and increase its visibility to enlighten the wider society on the work that it is doing.
He said that there was no doubt that the nation’s children are at risk, and it is offices like the OCA that must highlight the problems facing them. But, at the end of the day, it is the parents that must take responsibility.
“I hope the (Office of) the Children’s Advocate, will emphasise the need for parents to ensure that our children are protected and their welfare is enhanced. There is no doubt that if we had good parenting skills, many of your problems would not exist. So we need to highlight the initial problem, before they actually become aggravated,” Mr. Chuck implored
In her remarks, Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, commended the media which, she said, has greatly enhanced the work of her office.
“Through your ardent work, you have kept us informed on the issues affecting the nation’s children on a daily basis. Many of the issues that our office intervened in, were brought to our attention through the print or electronic media,” she stated.
She assured the media that her office will never fail to act on matters concerning the rights of children. She also highlighted the media’s role in helping to promote positive issues, such as the importance of good parenting, which she cited as key to the development of children.
“I am fully convinced that, if we can get parents to really parent their children and comply with the requirements of the Child Care and Protection Act (2004), many of the problems our children are encountering would be solved, and there would be a great reduction in the number of children in child care and correctional institutions,” she contended.
Mrs. Clarke said that by facilitating and engaging children in the process of informing, entertaining, and educating, the media is helping to develop their talents and channel their energies in a positive way.
“Child participation is a right every child should enjoy. You have also highlighted inappropriate child participation, such as children in demonstrations, and we have been able to act on these, as well. You have helped to educate the public about the mandate and functions of the OCA, and have allowed us to keep the public informed as to our goals, role and actions,” she said.
“I want to encourage you to continue to play your part in highlighting issues affecting children. Be prepared to probe, uncover, agitate and advocate in an organised and systematic manner,” she urged.
About 12 print and electronic media houses, including the Jamaica Information Service(JIS), were presented with special awards by the OCA for their support.
Responding on behalf of the media, CVM-TV journalist, Dara Smith, thanked the OCA for the gesture, and acknowledged the fraternity’s role in nation building, citing that children are at the heart of the process.
She also stressed the importance of members displaying sensitivity and professionalism in these matters, and pledged their continued commitment.