Tufton, Williams take seats

Tufton, Williams take seats

However, both must await Supreme Court decision on Senate ruling

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 13, 2015

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THE Senate yesterday decided to refer the issues arising from the Constitutional Court's decision on the re-seating of Opposition senators Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton to the Supreme Court for determination.

Yesterday, both Williams and Tufton returned to take their seats on the Opposition benches, while senators Ruel Reid and Nigel Clarke who had replaced them in controversial resignations of November 2013, did not attend the sitting.

Senate President Floyd Morris, in a statement at yesterday's final sitting for 2015/16, said that while he has received the advice of Attorney General Patrick Atkinson on the issue, he has received "no formal indication" of the ruling from the Supreme Court.

He said that, notwithstanding that, the question of membership has arisen, subject to Section 44 (1) of the Constitution of Jamaica, and Section 3 of the Parliament Membership Question Act. "The matter is required to be referred to the Supreme Court for determination," Senator Morris ruled.

Both Williams and Tufton, despite taking their seats, expressed disappointment with Senator Morris' insistence that they take their seats in "silence", meaning that they would not be allowed to make any speeches, pending the Supreme Court's resolution of the matter.

Williams was particularly annoyed as he handed out copies of a statement he had intended to deliver in the chamber, but was refused permission to do so by the president.

"I hold the view that Senator Tufton and I have full rights, as of today, in view of the ruling of the Constitutional Court and the attorney general's directions," Williams insisted.

Following Senator Morris' statement, Leader of Government Business Senator A J Nicholson, moved for suspension of the standing orders to allow him to pilot a motion for the matter to be referred to the Supreme Court, which was approved by the Senate. The motion asked that:

"In accordance with Section 44(1) of the Constitution, the following questions be placed before the Court by the Clerk to the Houses upon petition pursuant to Section 3 of the Parliament (Membership Questions) Act for declarations to be made:

(a) Are Mr Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton subsisting members of the Senate in accordance with the Constitution of Jamaica?

(b) If the answer to (a) above is yes, were the purported appointments of Dr Nigel Clarke and Mr Ruel Reid as members of the Senate null and void?

(c) If the answer to (a) above is no, were the purported appointments of Dr Nigel Clarke and Mr Ruel Reid as members of the Senate valid and effective, and do they remain members of the Senate, in accordance with the Constitution of Jamaica?

After the passage of the motion, Senator Nicholson used the public business session of the Senate to reiterate that, with the prorogation of Parliament scheduled for next Tuesday, there was need for a "carry-over" motion to allow sessional, select, joint select and special select committees, appointed in the current session, to continue sitting in the new parliamentary year which begins on Thursday.

Debate on a bill amending the Administrator General Department's handling of delays in the disposal of properties it has been administrating was also postponed.

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