Members of the Government and Opposition have pledged to work together to ensure good governance of the country.
In a show of unity, members of both sides held a joint press briefing on January 17 at Gordon House to affirm their commitment, following the swearing-in ceremony for Members of Parliament (MPs) who won their seats in the General Election on December 29, 2011.
The briefing was addressed by Leaders of Government and Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Phillip Paulwell and Delroy Chuck, respectively, as well as the Leaders of Government and Opposition Business in the Senate, A. J. Nicholson and Arthur Williams, respectively.
Mr. Paulwell said that the Houses of Parliament have to be used to strive for greater national unity, better civility, order and decorum.
"Whilst we accept and we want to encourage the usual cut and thrust of robust debate, the objective is to inform our people and advance the various principles Government and Opposition are elected to do; and we definitely are going to strive to lessen the type of heat that sometimes is associated with the conduct of our Parliamentary behaviour," he said.
"We are pledging, as a government that has a substantial majority, that there will be no oppression of the minority by the majority. We are going to work towards consultations between government and opposition and indeed Ministers are going to facilitate regular dialogue and sessions with their counterpart shadow Ministers in the Opposition," Mr. Paulwelll added.
He further noted that he will work to ensure that debates are carried out in a timely manner.
For his part, Mr. Chuck said it is important to have the Lower House function in a civil, decent and courteous manner.
"There can be no doubt that in our parliamentary system of government you are going to get some heat. Where I believe that parliamentarians fall out of line is where they go on and on without recognising that having made your point, you must shut up. So often, too many parliamentarians feel they must provoke and be discourteous and that is something I believe the House Leader and myself will try to temper, so that when we come to Parliament we can make our presentations," Mr. Chuck said.
In the meantime, Senator Nicholson emphasised that operations in the Senate cannot be "business as usual."
"This is a defining moment. The Government now has an opportunity to lay the platform for the next fifty years. The Government cannot do it alone; it has to be done with the assistance of the Opposition. We have already pledged to each other that we are going to work together for the good of Jamaica,” he said.
“There has to be debate, there has to be criticism, but there doesn’t have to be rudeness. What we intend to do in the Senate is to ensure that the example that we set will be an example that can be used by the everyday man. We intend to be exemplars," Mr. Nicholson added.
Senator Williams, in sharing similar views, noted that despite coming from different political parties, "we can work together for the benefit of all the people of Jamaica."
The first sitting of the House of Representatives will be held on January 24 at Gordon House.