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Senate surprise

Don’t allow other J’cans to feel forced to leave, migrating president pleads with colleagues

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY Senior staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 12, 2013    

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REVEREND Stanley Redwood's resignation from the Senate Friday was significant for the action. But it was his charge to his colleague legislators that raised eyebrows outside the Parliament.

"No other Jamaican should be forced or feel forced to make the choice I have to make this month," said Redwood, who is scheduled to leave, with his family, for Canada on May 20.

"I feel strongly that after 50 years of Independence, Jamaica should have been further along on the pathway to be able to sustain more of the hopes and the dreams of more of its citizens.

"I voice this regret so that, as committed and patriotic Jamaicans, you might be challenged to redouble your efforts to put Jamaica first. And to put the people first," said Redwood, who served as Senate president since January 2012 when his People's National Party took office after winning the December 2011 general election.

Redwood's charge would have left members of the ruling party wincing, given its campaign platform of empowering people and its promise to improve the lives of Jamaicans.

Obviously pained by his decision to migrate in search of a better life, Redwood presented the Upper House with what he termed "a carefully thought-through wish list" of tasks that the legislature must play an activist role in actualising and bringing to fruition before the end of the parliamentary term.

Heading the list is the construction of "a new, state-of-the-art, disabled-conscious, user-friendly, multi-chamber Parliament building, with cutting-edge technological support systems and a back-up generator which comes online faster".

"It is extremely embarrassing to have the lights go in the middle of the speech of a visiting head of state and the honourable prime minister. This is, after all, the 21st Century," Redwood said to expressions of agreement.

"I recommend further that we work assiduously to have the next batch of parliamentarians take their Oath of Office in the new Gordon House at North Heroes Circle," he said further.

Also on the former president's list is the full repatriation of the country's Judiciary.

"Bills have been tabled to advance Jamaica's accession to the Appellate Division of the Caribbean Court of Justice. I am sure these Bills will be vigorously debated in both Houses. As I have absolutely no desire to be contentious, all I will say on this subject is please, please do not cause Jamaica to become the last country in the Caribbean region to realise full judicial independence," Redwood urged, adding that justice is "incomplete" when "the common mass of Jamaican people cannot afford or access their final court".

"This is a constitutional matter. I beseech you, humbly and respectfully, in the name of the people from which I spring and the people to which I will always choose to belong; please vote your consciences. Be true to your souls. Put Jamaica first," he pleaded.

He also said he hoped that Jamaica would "finally attain genuine political independence".

"You have heard me salute the Queen from this hallowed House, so you know there is nothing personal in what I now say. However, 50 years of Independence apprenticeship is long enough," he said.

"Jamaica initiated and led the Independence struggle in this region. I ask respectfully... that you do not allow Jamaica to be the last country in the Western Hemisphere to become a full independent nation. Senators cannot be fired and this is a constitutional matter, so kindly vote your consciences," Redwood added.

He also urged a full discussion on nuclear energy, arguing that "Anyone who takes the time to contain their emotional knee-jerk responses to nuclear energy and do the research will find that nuclear-generated electricity is the cheapest commercial source of power in the world. At an average cost of about six US cents per kilowatt, it is just about one-sixth the cost of the 40 US cents we currently pay.

"Nuclear power is the fastest-growing energy source in the world; now accounting for about 17 per cent of world electricity generation," he noted, adding that if the process is further delayed, Jamaica might be the last country in this hemisphere to be using petrol generators.

Redwood also said he was anxiously awaiting the establishment of a single anti-corruption agency; with direct prosecutorial powers and strong investigative and tracing facilities, as well as the attainment of modern labour laws.

"It is not true that the regular Jamaican is inherently lazy. I believe the popular political phrase from this side is, "Mash down that lie!" he said reviving memories of former Prime Minister and PNP President Michael Manley who used the phrase to great effect in the Lower House in the 1970s.

"The regular Jamaican over-produces in every other country but Jamaica. They work two or three jobs in some countries and will out-produce any other national on the globe. Jamaican labour is still highly sought after in industrialised countries today," he argued.

"I believe our low productivity lies in the way we pay and treat our fellow Jamaicans who work for us," Redwood said to applause from senators.

"I have heard it said repeatedly in this House that this will be remembered as 'the best Senate since Independence'. Those cannot be mere words, because Jamaica needs this to be the best Senate ever. I don't think that this is unattainable," he said.

"However, listen to me carefully. Even if you missed everything else that I have said, do not miss this: You can only become the best Senate if sufficient of you are willing to stand on the 'Jamaica first' or 'People first' principle," he pointed out.

Ending his farewell, Redwood said, "I will return".

Redwood, who was named a senator in January 2012, made two failed bids to serve as a member of the House of Representatives — one in 2002 and the other in 2007. In his first race he was beaten by the Jamaica Labour Party's JC Hutchinson in North West St Elizabeth and then, in 2007, he lost to the Jamaica Labour Party's then candidate/representative for South West St Elizabeth Dr Christopher Tufton.

The Jamaican Senate comprises 21 members appointed by the governor general; 13 of whom are appointed on the advice of the prime minister and eight on the advice of the leader of the opposition.

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