Privileges Committee Begins Its Deliberation on Motion

Story Highlights

  • The Privileges Committee of the Senate on Friday, November 6, commenced its private meeting on a motion moved by Opposition Senator Arthur Williams.
  • The motion addresses the recent suspension of Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte.
  • President of the Senate, Senator Floyd Morris, said “based on the seriousness of the motion that has been moved, and based on discussions that I have had, I am very much aware of the urgency of this committee to meet.”

The Privileges Committee of the Senate on Friday, November 6, commenced its private meeting on a motion moved by Opposition Senator Arthur Williams.

The motion addresses the recent suspension of Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte.

Speaking at Friday’s sitting, President of the Senate, Senator Floyd Morris, said “based on the seriousness of the motion that has been moved, and based on discussions that I have had, I am very much aware of the urgency of this committee to meet.”

In moving an amendment to the motion, Senator Dr. Angela Brown Burke said “be it further resolved that this honourable Senate condemns the projection and portrayal in the public domain by some Opposition Senators of the final stages of the circumstances that led to the suspension of the Senator.”

In objecting to the proposed amendment suggested by Senator Brown Burke, Senator Williams recommended that the Senator(s) be named, as the motion had to deal with rights and privileges.

            Senator Brown Burke further suggested amendments to the amendment which read “be it further resolved that the honourable Senate condemns the projection and portrayal in the public domain by Opposition Senators of the final stages of the circumstances that led to the suspension of the Senator, and be it further resolved that this motion be referred to the Committee of Privileges.” 

            Senator Williams however proposed that the amendment should address the behaviour of all members of the Senate and should not speak only to Opposition Senators.

            The amendment proposed by Senator Williams was put to a vote and resulted in 12 Senators voting against, six for and two Senators were absent. It was not carried.

In the meantime, the amendments proposed by Senator Brown Burke was put to a vote and resulted in 12 Senators voting for, six no and two Senators were absent.  The amendment to the amendment was carried.

            During the sitting, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator A.J. Nicholson, announced changes to the Privileges Committee that would see Senators K. D. Knight and Nevel Clarke replacing Senators Imani Duncan Price and Norman Grant.

The members of the Committee include: Senator Floyd Morris – Chairman; Senator Dr. Angela Brown Burke; Senator K. D. Knight; Senator Lambert Brown; Senator Nevel Clarke; Senator Arthur Williams and Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

The motion by Senator Williams stems from the suspension of Senator Malahoo Forte during the sitting of the Senate on Friday, Oct. 23 in which the President, in accordance with the rules of the Standing Orders, proceeded to successfully move a motion for the Senator to be suspended until a letter which she quoted from her presentation during the debate on the Bills to implement the CCJ as the final appeal court of Jamaica, on October 22 was produced.

The suspension was withdrawn on October 29.

 

The Motion reads:

 

WHEREAS on Thursday, October 22, 2015, Senator Malahoo Forte, during her presentation in the debate on the CCJ Bills, read into the record a letter from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council;

 

AND WHEREAS Senator Malahoo Forte was requested by the President of the Senate to make a copy of the said letter available to the President of the Senate and the Minister of Justice and agreed so to do;

 

AND WHEREAS up to the time of the imminent adjournment of the Senate on Friday, October 23, 2015, Senator Malahoo Forte had not yet given the said letter to the President or to the Minister of Justice;

 

AND WHEREAS on Friday, October 23, 2015, the President of the Senate, after make a number of requests of Senator Malahoo Forte for a copy of the letter, pursuant to Standing Order 43(4) directed the Leader of Government Business to move a Motion that Senator Malahoo Forte be suspended from the service of the Senate;

 

AND WHEREAS the motion was duly moved and passed;

 

AND WHEREAS it has been variously said that the action of the President was based on the failure of Senator Malahoo Forte to comply with his directive and/or a failure to fulfil an undertaking given by Senator Malahoo Forte, and/or for Senator Malahoo Forte showing contempt to the President of the Senate;

 

BE IT RESOLVED that the Senate affirm that the following are the rights and privileges of Members; viz.:

 

  • That pursuant to the Standing Orders of the Senate of Jamaica and the usage and practice of the Commons House of Parliament of Great Britain, a Member of the Senate of Jamaica is entitled to cite documents in their possession which are not before the Senate.

 

2          That there is no provision in the Standing Orders of the Senate of Jamaica nor in the usage and practice of the Commons House of Parliament of Great Britain to require a Member, who is not a Minister, to hand over to anyone a document in his possession which he has cited.

 

 

3          That there is no convention of the Jamaican Parliament that the presiding officer, be it the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate, has the authority to direct a member, who is not a Minister, to hand over a document which they have cited.

 

4          That Standing Order 4(6) does not confer on the President of the Senate the authority to give himself a power which he does not have under the Standing Orders or under the practice of the Commons House of Parliament of Great Britain.

 

5          That if a Senator has made a promise, or given an undertaking to hand over a document and failed to do so, while this may give rise to expressions of  displeasure, this cannot validly lead to the suspension of a Member pursuant to Standing Order 43(4).

 

6          That the Standing Orders of the Senate of Jamaica do not contain any provision dealing with “contempt” shown by a Member to the President.

 

7          That the failure of a Member to comply with an undertaking given and/or fulfil a promise made to produce a document does not amount to “contempt” within the meaning of contempt in the usage and practice of the Commons House of Parliament of Great Britain.

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Senate affirm that the suspension of Senator Malahoo Forte was done contrary to the Standing Orders of the Senate of Jamaica and/or the usage and practice of the Commons House of Parliament of Great Britain.

 

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Honourable Senate condemn the projection and the portrayal in the public domain by Opposition Senators of the final stages of the circumstances that led to the suspension of the Senator.

 

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this motion be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

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