KINGSTON–The 2011/12 session of Parliament opened yesterday (April 14) at Gordon House with the ceremonial pomp and pageantry, highlighted by the delivery of the Throne Speech by Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir. Patrick Allen.
Proceedings began promptly at 10:30 a.m. with the arrival of the Guard of Honour led by the Jamaica Military Band, with its sweet orchestral strains. This was followed by the arrival of Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson.
While the large crowd of well-wishers who, traditionally, would line Duke Street to view the proceedings and offer sporadic cheers, was not present this year, there was the full turnout from the business community, Permanent Secretaries from the various ministries, and members of the diplomatic corps, who steadily streamed through the doors of Gordon House.
After Lady Allen and Mrs. Lorna Golding were escorted to their seats, Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding, and Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Portia Simpson Miller led their Members of Parliament into Gordon House.
The Governor-General, who was met by Major General Anderson, inspected the Guard of Honour, before being escorted into Gordon House for the reading of the Throne Speech titled 'From Stablisation to Growth', which outlined the priority programmes and policies to be pursued by the Government during the new fiscal year.
Some of the priority areas outlined for the 2011/12 financial year include the economy, crime, education and the infrastructure. Sir Patrick noted that the restructuring and rationalisation of the public sector to improve its efficiency and effectiveness in facilitating growth, will be a priority for the Government.
At the same time, he said the administration will be seeking to urgently address the rising cost of pensions for public sector workers which have risen by 82 per cent in the last four years.
Also, the Governor General stated that work on the first phase of Justice Square in downtown Kingston will begin shortly with the construction of seven new court rooms, judges' chambers and associated facilities.
He said efforts will also continue to provide critical support to the security forces to fight crime.
Later this afternoon, the House will have first official sitting for the new Legislature year. This will be marked by the tabling of the 2011/12 Estimates of Expenditure by the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw.
By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter