Gold­ing la­bels Sen­ate ‘sloppy and in­ex­pe­ri­enced’

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van Johnson Staff Reporter jo­van.johnson@glean­erjm.com

THE GOV­ERN­MENT lost quo­rum while a bill was be­ing de­bated in the Sen­ate last week, high­light­ing what the Op­po­si­tion has la­belled the ‘sloppy’ con­duct of the af­fairs of the Up­per House of Ja­maica’s Par­lia­ment.

Kam­ina Johnson Smith, the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness in the Sen­ate, was forced to go on the hunt for one of her mem­bers on Thurs­day af­ter the de­bate on a bill to amend the Pro­ceeds of Crime Act had to be halted.

Op­po­si­tion mem­ber Lam­bert Brown who was mak­ing his con­tri­bu­tion, alerted Aubyn Hill, who was pre­sid­ing, that the rules of the Sen­ate were in breach af­ter gov­ern­ment mem­ber Dr Saphire Long­more left the cham­ber.

Un­der the Stand­ing Or­ders which gov­ern the op­er­a­tions of the 21-mem­ber Sen­ate, a meet­ing can only be legally con­sti­tuted with the pres­ence of at least eight mem­bers, in ad­di­tion to the pres­i­dent.

Up to Long­more’s de­par­ture, there were three mem­bers from the Op­po­si­tion and five from the Gov­ern­ment, bring­ing the to­tal to the min­i­mum eight. Long­more’s de­par­ture re­duced the num­ber to seven.

Deputy Pres­i­dent Hill in­voked Stand­ing Or­ders 7 (2), which said there must be a break of five min­utes to get a quo­rum, which if not done, “shall” see the sit­ting ad­journed.

Hill ex­er­cised his dis­cre­tion and re­sumed the sit­ting al­most 10 min­utes later, when Long­more re­turned. The bill was later passed.

Ac­cord­ing to Mark Gold­ing, the leader of op­po­si­tion busi­ness, the is­sue high­lighted the ‘in­ex­pe­ri­ence’ of gov­ern­ment mem­bers, the pres­sures on Johnson Smith, who is also a Cab­i­net min­is­ter, and the ‘slop­pi­ness’ in the gen­eral con­duct of the Up­per House.

“Nor­mally, you have to have at least seven days be­tween tabling a bill and de­bat­ing it. To­day, they tabled and de­bated this bill, which I did not ob­ject to be­cause it’s a very short bill. But in the mid­dle of the de­bate, the de­bate had to be sus­pended be­cause there was no quo­rum be­cause a lot of their mem­bers had left the cham­ber. We were there lin­ger­ing, won­der­ing whether or not the pro­ceed­ings could con­tinue. I’ve not ex­pe­ri­enced that be­fore and I’ve been in the sen­ate since 2007,” Gold­ing told The Sun­day Gleaner.

“There’s a cer­tain slop­pi­ness to the work that’s be­ing done. They need to tighten up their act,” he stressed, point­ing to a leg­is­la­tion which was passed with 73 amend­ments.

That leg­is­la­tion, which was ap­proved, is to es­tab­lish the Ja­maica Agri­cul­tural Com­modi­ties Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity to merge and re­place the co­coa and cof­fee in­dus­try boards.

Ex­cept for Johnson Smith, Sen­ate Pres­i­dent Tom TavaresFin­son, Don Wehby, Ka­van Gayle, and Ruel Reid, all the other eight gov­ern­ment mem­bers are first-time sen­a­tors.

Tavares-Fin­son is re­ject­ing some of Gold­ing’s as­ser­tions.

“What the leader of the op­po­si­tion busi­ness, Se­na­tor Mark Gold­ing, needs to do is to hark back to the way in which the Sen­ate was con­ducted when A.J. Ni­chol­son was the leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness, where ev­ery week, al­most, the Sen­ate broke down into a shout­ing match and peo­ple were quite rightly ashamed of the con­duct of the Sen­ate,” Tavares-Fin­son said.

He added, how­ever, “I agree that there is scope for tight­en­ing up on the part of ev­ery­body in the Sen­ate.”

On the is­sue of quo­rum, the pres­i­dent said, “Peo­ple need to recog­nise that the sen­a­tors are not paid. So, quite of­ten, they have busi­ness, per­sonal mat­ters, that they have to look about. So, it’s not un­usual for the Sen­ate to run into a prob­lem with a quo­rum. It’s noth­ing to be alarmed about.”

He con­tin­ued, “In my mind, the Sen­ate has been op­er­at­ing ef­fi­ciently. Some of the bills have been very com­plex, and for some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­sons, the leg­is­la­tion seems to be com­ing from the Lower House in a way that re­quires the in­ter­ven­tion of the Sen­ate over and above the usual.”

MARK GOLD­ING

DR SAPHIRE LONG­MORE

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