Minister of Education, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, raised a procedural matter during the first session of the sitting of Parliament today (December 7, 2022) relating to the adherence by the ruling government to Parliamentary procedures.
In this case, the Minister of Education asked for the unidentified person in the chamber of Parliament taking photos of members of Parliament during a sitting of Parliament to be identified and questioned the manner in which images were being taken.
In saying this, the Minister of Education indicated that this activity did not appear to follow protocol.
Initially raising the matter, the Minister of Education explained that “under conventions, a camera should not be arbitrarily taking pictures of members,” and she was “not in agreement with it.”
Responding to the Minister of Education, the Speaker of Parliament, Katherine Ebanks-Wilks, said: “I do apologize. I failed to make an announcement earlier this morning to advise members that I have granted permission to the gentleman who is employed by GIS just for today and tomorrow to take some photographs on behalf of the government as they are rolling out a new communications plan to enhance the engagement with the public in relation to our Parliament.”
The Speaker of Parliament then emphasized that she would be “advised by all members on their wishes,” saying that “if it is the wish of Parliament,” she would “ask the photographer to leave.”
Having heard the explanation from the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister of Education said:
I accept your explanation, but one ought to remember that this is the people’s house. There is a government and an opposition and a camera person is not allowed to have their camera arbitrarily roaming around the place.
Otherwise, we’ll end up with what we had on two occasions before… [an] unsanctimonious photo of a member of Parliament whilst not speaking in the picture circulated on social media.
That’s the reason the rules are there.
Chiming in on the debate, the Minister for Tourism, Kenneth Bryan, explained, “The government agency will be responsible for the content of those pictures as well as to the distribution of which pictures would be the most appropriate.”
I think we should have enough confidence within our own government information services that those files will be kept in a protective manner and whatever ones are distributed will be distributed in a very digested way.
I do agree that we should be doing better with our media exposure so people can see that we are working hard in this honourable house and I, as member of this government, do not want to deny the gentleman from, as a Caymanian, getting this job opportunity for these two days.
He is a business owner of his own, contracted by GIS.
Seeking to clarify the reasons for raising the procedural matter, the Minister for Education expanded, saying:
For some reason, it seems that certain persons have to elucidate on matters whether or not they have the experience or the intellectual capacity.
I raised [the point] purely on a procedural matter.
It has nothing to do with whether he’s Caymanian, has absolutely nothing to do with whether he’s working with GIS.
In fact, had he had on the required badge that is required by the rules there, the question would not have had to have been asked.
He would have been properly briefed that when you’re in Parliament, despite the fact that some people don’t seem to recognize the importance and significance of a Parliamentary democracy.
You have to wear the badge and he should have been briefed that you only take pictures of a member when he or she is standing on the[ir] feet. This is not a Hollywood hall. This is not a PR stunt. It’s the seat of democracy and there are rules and conventions for different reasons.
I have absolutely no lack of confidence in GIS and their capability to take photographs and do it the right way, but this is a House of Parliament and as much as we would like to think so, it is not a house of government.
It has to be seen… perceptions become actuality and for the past several months, what has obtained in this house is an erosion greater than what obtains at West Bay beach when it comes to Parliamentary sanctity and democracy.
Agreeing with the Minister of Education, Sir Alden McLaughlin, the MP for Red Bay elucidated:
I just want to say a few things which I think may have been forgotten.
Parliament is not an agency of the Cayman Islands government.
We battle[d]… some of us in here… for years to give this Parliament, by legislation, the autonomy which the principles of Westminster government properly require.
This Parliament is now run by a Parliamentary Management Commission.
Decisions which involve matters such as this are decisions which properly ought to be taken by the Parliament Management Commission, which is made up of members of both sides of the house.
The member for Education is absolutely right.
What I have seen happening over this term is the situation where the government is making decisions which are properly the province of the Parliamentary Management Commission.
I just want us all to remember that we have a duty, not just to represent our people on matters related to their constituencies and broader policies, but we have an overriding responsibility to continue the development and preservation of this sacred concept called Parliamentary democracy.
The presentation of these points in Parliament today demonstrates how important it is for MPs to understand the difference between the different arms of government.
By understanding these differences, MPs will better appreciate what decisions can properly be made by the government and what decisions are within the sole remit of the Parliamentary Management Commission created under the Parliament (Management) Act.
More about the Parliament Management Commission
Under the Parliament (Management) Act, the Parliament Management Commission is responsible for the administration and management of the Parliament.
The functions of the Parliament Management Commission include:
carrying out the budgetary, financial and operational matters relating to the Parliament establishing the executive, management and administrative structure of the Commission for the necessary discharge of the functions of the Commissionpreparing regular budgets, financial and operational reports for submission to the Parliamentproviding clerical staff, attendants and other staff to enable the Parliament and committees of the Parliament to operate efficientlyproviding advice on parliamentary procedures and the functions of Parliament generallyproviding an accurate and efficient reporting of proceedings of the Parliament and of meetings of committees of the Parliament as requiredproviding adequate library and research facilities and services for members of the Parliamentproviding security services within the precincts of the Parliament for the safe, orderly and efficient conduct of the business of the Parliamentselling laws and engaging in similar revenue earning activitymaintaining the Parliament building; andmaking such rules as it thinks fit to regulate its own internal management