Phillips warns that the principles of democracy are being undermined

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips today said the principles governing the nation’s democracy are being undermined as assurances given by ministers of government are proving to be unreliable.

Dr Phillips, who was addressing the Standing Finance Committee in Gordon House, questioned why provisions were not made for the re-verification of the voters list despite the assurance was given to the House that this would have been reflected in the budget.

Phillips argued that this goes to the heart of the respect given to the Parliament by government ministers and questioned the reliance that the Parliament can place on the word given to the House.

“There is a fundamental principle on which our Parliamentary system is based and it is being eroded,” Phillips said, adding that disputes are left to the streets if assurances in Parliament cannot be relied on.

“We have allowed questions in this house to stay on the order paper for more than a year. The assurances of ministers have not meant anything,” Dr Phillips stressed.

He said if the parliamentary democracy cannot work, something else will have to work.
“If a minister of government gives an assurance to The House, the House must be able to rely on it.

“We were given the assurance at the start of the last fiscal year that $700 million would have been provided for re-verification. The provision was made in the budget and the House voted on it. We were assured by the minister of the Crown that the money would have been provided. None was provided. No excuse was given then.

If we cannot rely on the assurances of the government, we are going down a slippery slope which will do the country no good,” emphasised Phillips.

The Opposition leader further argued that an electoral system in which people can have confidence is at the heart of our democracy.

“We are trespassing on the most dangerous ground”, said Phillips.