Jamaica’s speaker quits amid integrity questions

By Bert Wilkinson

Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

Associated Press / Collin Reid,

The speaker of Jamaica’s 63-member parliament resigned her position late Thursday in the face of withering criticism about the thoughtless omission of a Mercedes Benz vehicle in her annual personal integrity disclosure forms as she blamed a simple oversight for the mistake.

In explaining the state of affairs, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert said that the issue, as well as, her multiple roles as the managing partner of a law firm, a mother and a parliamentarian had taken an immense toll on her as she tendered her resignation to the nation maintaining that it was entirely voluntary even as she restated her loyalty to the governing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP).

Her resignation will, however, have no major political effect on the composition of parliament as the JLP had vanquished the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) in the last elections three years ago winning 49 of the 63 seats. The house which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday is expected to vote on a successor as the JPL, worried about declining popularity ahead of general elections in the coming month, tries to manage the political fallout from her resignation. She is also immediately giving up her seat and representation of the northern rural Trelawny South constituency as she prepares to face eight criminal charges linked to the omission on declaration forms between 2015 and 2021.

“I maintain to this day that the omission of the vehicle was a genuine oversight on my part. I look forward to the trial of the matter, for which the Integrity Commission has ruled that I be charged, to be concluded in a court of law rather than a court of public opinion. As a woman maintaining a family and as a member of parliament, the speaker of the house of representatives, and managing partner of a law firm, the toll that it has taken on me is immense,” she said in a statement.

Her departure came after a slew of civil society groups including the private sector and the PNP had called for her to go, arguing that almost no one would forget to include a luxury car on a declaration form for more than six consecutive years.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Mark Golding argued that Dalrymple-Philibert’s resignation should have come earlier, especially because the Integrity Commission’s report had been tabled in parliament this week. It had recommended that she be slapped with eight criminal charges as its authors appear to be convinced that the omission of the Benz had not been a mistake but part of a scheme to ignore obligations.

Golding said that Dalrymple-Philibert’s resignation should have come from Tuesday, following the tabling of the report, which detailed the circumstances that led to the charges. “I hope that we can now move forward as a parliament without this pall hanging over us. But there is the whole question of the six who are under investigation for illicit enrichment where the government has failed to say who those people are. They have failed to come forward and admit who they are. We don’t know who they are, what their roles are, whether in the government or in the parliament,” he told the Gleaner Newspaper. “I again call on the prime minister to reveal who the six MPs are who are being investigated for illicit enrichment so that they can take appropriate action as the speaker has had to do today. Until the matters they are being investigated for are finally disposed of,” said Golding.

She contended that nowhere in the commission’s report had questions been raised about the source of funding for the vehicle, noting it had been acquired from a commercial bank loan. “I maintain to this day that the omission of the vehicle was a genuine oversight on my part. There would have been no allegations against my name had I included the vehicle in my declaration; therefore, I had no motive to have deliberately omitted it,” she said.

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