The Senate resumed sitting yesterday in a much-improved atmosphere following Thursday night's rancour over a vote to extend the existing states of emergency. But the session was brief, in keeping with a long-standing political protocol.
Leader of Government Business Senator Kamina Johnson Smith rose after the conclusion of a brief debate on regulations for improvements in the fees paid to attorneys contracted by the Legal Aid Council to defend accused who are unable to pay the cost of legal representation.
She said that it is the custom of the Senate not to sit on the Friday prior to the annual conference of either major political party. However, she said that it was decided to have an early meeting yesterday to deal with the legal aid issue and adjourn in time for Government senators to take on their political responsibilities.
That agreement was reached in a discussion with deputy leader of Opposition Business Senator Donna Scott Mottley prior to the sitting.
“Recognising that this weekend there is the JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) conference, and it is the convention that the Senate does not sit on the Friday before the conference of either side, and although some efforts had been made to try to catch up with the state of the nation debate [we agreed] that we would in fact postpone the rest of the agenda and ask that the [rest of] the sitting be postponed to a date to be fixed,” she informed the Senate on the adjournment.
Senator Scott Mottley responded: “May I be permitted to extend to my colleagues on that side my best wishes for a good conference. I see where you have put a lot of COVID protection in place, and that you are only allowing 10 persons to gather at different venues.”
Senator Scott Mottley said she had heard the explanation of adherence to COVID-19 protocols for the conference from JLP Deputy Leader Desmond McKenzie and was satisfied with what she had heard.
“It is an important time for you to have a conference to demonstrate to the country that it can be done differently from how we are accustomed to do it, and I sincerely hope for you that it will be a successful conference and that you will have the kind of participation that you anticipate. So, good luck, all the best, and thank you, Mr President,” she said.