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Senate receives GG's confirmation of resignation of Reid and Crawford

Inside Parliament

With Balford Henry

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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PRESIDENT of the Senate Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson on Friday confirmed that he had received copies of the letters of resignation for both former minister of education, Youth and Information, Ruel Reid and Opposition candidate for Portland Eastern, Damion Crawford.

According to Senator Tavares Finson, he received from the clerk prior to Friday's meeting of the Senate, a letter dated March 14, the day before nominations for the Portland Eastern by-election, confirming the resignation of Crawford. He also received a letter dated March 20, confirming the resignation of Reid.

Asked by Opposition Senator KD Knight, whether there were any explanations given for the resignations, Tavares-Finson confirmed that there was none.

According to him, the governor general's advice to the Parliament was that Crawford had resigned as of March 14, and he had accepted the resignation as of that date. There was no further indication. Reid's letter gave no indication either.

Opposition member, Senator Lambert Brown, however, claimed that he had a copy of a letter which suggested that Reid resigned on March 22 as a minister, but could not have remained as a minister after his resignation from the Senate.

“I can indicate to you, from my position here, the situation as it relates to the Senate, and I have read accordingly the correspondence to the clerk from His Excellency, the governor general. As to the particular circumstances and the letter that triggered it, I would not be privy to that. That's not my concern. My concern is the resignation from the Senate,” Tavares-Finson explained.

However, despite the resignations, there is still the issue that as long as the Senate remains with only one Cabinet minister, there is a breach of its constitutionality, as the constitution requires that Senate must have between a maximum four and a minimum two Cabinet ministers within its ranks.

The issue was raised by the leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips, at Thursday's sitting of the House of Representatives. However, Prime Minister Andrew Holness informed the House that due to his visit to the United States to meet with President Donald Trump, he would be unable to name a replacement until he returns. This announcement is expected on Tuesday when the House resumes.

CLARKE TABLES THIRD SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke tabled a third Supplementary Estimates for fiscal 2018/19 in the House of Representatives on March 20.

Dr Clarke did not say exactly why this was necessary, but generally supplementary estimates are tabled when the Government needs additional budgetary fund to complete its work for the fiscal year. However, there is no indication that estimates will create any additional spending.

A thorough minister as he has been since taking office, Dr Clarke seems to be setting new standards for the job all of which seem to have won him favour with his colleagues in the House. There was no cause for alarm, as the figures actually represented no change in the $802.5 billion budget which comes to an end on March 31, except for under-expenditure of approximately $1.5 billion in the capital budgets.

POLITICAL OMBUDSMAN NEEDS RESOURCES

It is interesting that the role of the Political Ombudsman has once again made the headlines, this time in regards to the spending and the use of billboards in the by-election in Portland Eastern. And, as usual, there is a question mark about what the office can actually influence political flavour of the campaigning period, especially considering that there has been no report of political violence.

The year marked 14 years since that office was created as a Commission of Parliament, but it has made little progress in terms of stamping its authority on campaigning. Bishop Herro Blair, the first commissioner, held the office for 11 years, up to 2013 when he retired after a revolt against him was influenced by young turks of the then Government.

The young MPs felt that the office was a waste of time and money, as they didn't see the necessity for it in between elections, while others didn't see the effectiveness of the commission even during the elections. After some embarrassing episodes, while a select committee of Parliament reviewed the situation, Blair resigned the position in 2013 and it remained vacant until November 2015 when the current ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown, was appointed.

However, she seems to be feeling the very heat that made Blair resign, as the political community expresses concerns as to how far into their activities the arms of her office will extend.

The fact is that while the office may have good intentions, it certainly does not have the physical or financial resources to fulfill its mission and, at the same time, the political parties are apprehensive about the office exerting too much influence on campaigns which are not dominated by violence.

The OPO claims to protect “the political parties and all their adherents against violation of their rights, abuse of power, error, negligence, unfair decisions and maladministration in the political arena that would negatively impact on the overall administration of the country as it advances”.

And it has a Vision Statement which wishes that it remains “steadfast in ensuring that political representatives and those aspiring to political office and constituents enjoy a fair and just electoral process”. But, it certainly needs staff to investigate and write reports, give legal advice, etcetera, which cost much more than the $22 million allocated this year, of which $10 million is for salaries and another $10 million covers rent, machinery, utilities and communication services.


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