First-time parliamentarians are engaged in a five-week virtual seminar being staged by the Houses of Parliament, which will aid in preparing them to effectively carry out their new role.
The Post-Election Seminar for Parliamentarians, which is being conducted in partnership with the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), seeks to ensure that within the first three months of new members receiving their Instruments of Appointment they are immersed in the rudiments of parliamentary procedures.
It will not only serve as an orientation programme for new parliamentarians but also as a reorientation exercise for returning members.
President of the Senate, Tom Tavares-Finson in a pre-recorded video message, at the opening session for the seminar on Wednesday (November 11), noted that the programme is being put on to ensure a smooth entry of new parliamentarians in the system.
“This programme demonstrates the commitment to ensuring that parliamentarians keep their roles and responsibilities at the forefront of their consideration,” he said.
Senator Tavares-Finson noted that it is often the perception outside Parliament and the thinking among parliamentarians themselves that on entering Gordon House each member is “somehow magically imbued with the requisite knowledge to effectively carry out his or her legislative functions”.
“This programme will provide a grounding for all parliamentarians at the beginning of this new parliamentary term. It reflects the areas of focus that are most pertinent and is aimed at ensuring that our parliamentarians are exposed to the factors necessary to make this Parliament a truly effective legislature, as well as to provide us as legislators with the tools that we need for capacity building,” he said.
In her recorded message, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Marisa Dalrymple Philibert, described the seminar as a launching pad for further capacity building, noting that to become an effective Parliamentarian, members must, among other things, “be committed to continuous self-improvement, especially in the various areas of responsibility that require our attention”.
“The modules to be presented over the course of this programme are, indeed, relevant to this process of continuous self-improvement. So in this seminar, we will look at the issue of leadership and we will see that to serve as Parliamentarians we need first to lead ourselves before we lead others,” she said.
The House Speaker further pointed out that the seminar is essential to ensuring that members are fully apprised of the constitutional and legal framework within which the country’s parliamentary democracy operates.
Additionally, over the course of the seminar, Ms. Dalrymple Philibert informed that parliamentarians will “delve into the intricacies of Parliamentary practice throughout the Commonwealth and the various clauses that we have in our own Standing Orders”.
“As Jamaican parliamentarians, we have to be skilled enough to understand and operate within the principles based on the tradition of the ancient Westminster system while being dynamic enough to adapt to the changing needs of our own people,” she said.
Ms. Dalrymple Philibert noted, as well, that as more and more emphasis is being placed on the Parliament’s role of providing oversight, the seminar will help members “to properly understand the roles, the functions and limitations of parliamentary committees and the roles played by the Parliament in ensuring that the public purse is managed with transparency, accountability and efficiency”.
In his remarks, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Stephen Twigg, praised the organisers for staging the seminar, which he said is the third such virtual session he has attended in the Caribbean.
“These post-election seminars are such an important part of the way in which Parliaments can prepare for the challenges that lie ahead,” he said.
This seminar, which was first delivered in 2018, is in keeping with the Government’s move to transform and modernise the public sector.