No, Senator Tavares-Finson, no
Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson

Maybe by now Senate President Mr Tom Tavares-Finson has reflected on his outburst in the Upper House last Thursday night and is prepared to accept that his proposal for a review of a provision in the constitution that acts as a check on Government abuse of power has no place in a democracy.

If he has reached that conclusion he needs to come to the Jamaican people in sackcloth and ashes in short order, for the longer he waits is the more damage he is doing to himself and the Government he represents.

Readers will recall that on November 14 Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the leadership of the security forces had requested that states of emergency (SOEs) be implemented in seven police divisions in response to rising crime.

At the time, we were told that the divisions — St James, Hanover, Westmoreland, Kingston Central, Kingston Eastern, St Andrew South, and Kingston West — were seeing increases in homicides ranging from 16 per cent to 57 per cent, all with murder rates ranging from 47 to 97 per 100,000, well in excess of the regional murder rate of 15 per 100,000.

Last Tuesday the Government used its majority in the Lower House to approve resolutions for an extension of the security measure. Given the Opposition's statements on the SOEs no one expected that they would vote in favour of an extension. However, what struck us as strange is that only two of the 14 Opposition MPs bothered to remain in the House for vote.

Last Thursday, in the Senate, the Opposition maintained its stance against the SOEs, and this time only three of them demonstrated the courage of their conviction by remaining in the chamber for the vote.

That, we suggest, may prove problematic for the Opposition in its quest to have Jamaicans treat it as a serious organisation going forward. But that is for another debate.

Our focus is on Mr Tavares-Finson, who, we accept, is well within his right to express disappointment, anger even, at the Opposition's vote.

However, his outburst in the Senate last Thursday after the vote borders on intolerance of the law which, if allowed to stand, could result in a slide towards autocracy that runs counter to the provision he wants to have reviewed.

He even acknowledged that point in his rant, stating that the “provision was put there because of the illegal, corrupt 1976 state of emergency” under which members of his own Jamaica Labour Party were imprisoned on trumped up charges by the then Government.

That was a dark period in our history that we should ensure is never repeated.

Mr Tavares-Finson should also remember that all members of the Senate are appointed; therefore, his emphasis on the fact that the three Opposition senators who voted against the SOEs are “unelected” is simply claptrap.

No one should have to explain to Mr Tavares-Finson, the president of the Senate, that what occurred in the Upper House last Thursday was indeed an expression of democracy. While many Jamaicans, especially those living in communities plagued by criminals, may not have been happy with the outcome they must accept that the vote is our democracy at work.

The descent into totalitarianism is never sudden; it's usually gradual. Any signal, no matter how small, that we are heading in that direction should be quickly and forcefully rejected.

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