In the Westminster democracy, Parliament is considered the highest court of the land. The lower house of parliament is especially important because its members are elected to represent the people. The lower house is important also because it is from that chamber the majority of the ministers of government (the cabinet) are drawn.
Countries that operate the parliamentary democracy have developed a number of laws and checks and balances to ensure that the members of parliament are men and women of high ideals, sound integrity and of good conduct. The British, who originated the Westminster system, have developed a number of conventions geared towards promoting ethical conduct by parliamentarians.
Successive issues have raised serious questions about the legitimacy and integrity of the Jamaica parliament that emerged out of the last election of 2007. The courts have so far ruled that three members who were sworn in to uphold the Constitution, were themselves in breach of the said Constitution and were not qualified to be elected in the first place.
Indications are that at least three more members of parliament are in similar breach of the Constitution. Let us not forget that two members of parliament pleaded guilty and were fined for abusing members of the police force in separate incidents. Interestingly, the members in question were subsequently promoted in the cabinet.
Of greater concern is that there are members who remain in the Jamaica parliament while facing serious corruption and criminal charges. There is heightened speculation that members of the Jamaica parliament are among persons of interest to the United States law enforcement agencies. This situation is untenable if we are to have good and proper governance. The legitimacy and integrity of the Jamaican parliament are in shambles.
Concerted efforts and political will are needed to retrieve the situation. Let us begin with one of the recent recommendation of the Contractor General, that elected officials who are charged and are under serious investigation should recuse themselves from their substantive positions.