SOE vote fury in SenateFriday, November 26, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
President of the Senate Tom Tavares-Finson last night severely criticised an order which requires the Government to win over at least a single vote from the Opposition to pass legislation with constitutional implications.
Tavares-Finson, in a strident response after the Government failed to get the single vote needed for the two-thirds majority to extend controversial states of emergency for another three months, said he was making the call as the president of the Senate “in whom a degree of responsibility has been invested”.
The states of emergency (SOEs) were declared in St James, Westmoreland and Hanover, in rural Jamaica, along with four police divisions in Kingston and St Andrew on November 14 by the Government and needed endorsement from the Senate to continue beyond November 28 when the proclamations from the governor general are scheduled to expire.
With the failure to pass the resolutions in the Senate, after being approved by 46 votes to 2 in the House of Representatives on Tuesday this week, the SOEs will have to be abandoned by next Sunday.
The result in the Senate was 13 in favour and 3 against. Five Opposition senators were absent.
Angered by the Opposition's vote to not extend the security measure, Tavares-Finson said: “I do not, of course, participate in the debate. It does not, however, mean that I cannot voice my view and call the attention of the people of Jamaica, from every quarter, from universities, from the various communities across Jamaica, from the Bar association, members of the legal fraternity, I wish to bring to your attention the need to revisit the provision.”
He noted that the provision had allowed two Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lower House to join with three members of the Senate to stifle the resolution.
Tavares-Finson argued that the two MPs who voted against the extension of the SOEs on Tuesday — Mark Golding and Luther Cousins — are not from the parishes of St James, Westmoreland, or Hanover, which he termed “the epicentre of the crime problem” that spawned the declaration of the SOEs.
The three Opposition senators who were present in the Upper House and voted on the matter last night were Floyd Morris, Damion Crawford and Peter Bunting.
Leader of Government Business Kamina Johnson Smith said that “As good as last week was, today is… a sad day for the people of Jamaica and, in particular, it is a sad day for the people who live in the communities covered by the seven divisions of the states of public emergency.”
“We convey our apologies to the security forces, who recommended and who have been utilising the states of emergency, and who had hoped that the debate today would rise to the level of reason and regard for the professional advice given, and the realities on the ground. But, it is what it is. We have reached where we are and I only regret that, as leader of Government Business, that the Senate has not delivered a better result to the people of Jamaica today,” she added.