Floyd Morris a token Senate president?
THERE IS much to admire about the president of the Senate, Floyd Emerson Morris. His ascension to one of the most important offices in the land is an inspirational story that serves to reaffirm the belief that with an able mind and stores of determination, a man can reshape what initially appears to be his life's destiny.
Given the extent of his intellect, the warmth of his charm and the latent steel that gives the ever-so-subtle reminder that he's not one to be messed with, Senator Morris has earned the right, over the years, to be referenced as a man - not as a disabled man. You don't get the impression, watching his hulking figure sitting in the highest chair on the floor of the Senate, that he is punching above his weight class. No. Senator Morris has managed to convince that he belongs.
Too many of the current 84 elected and selected members of the legislature have seen better days. Too many can be accurately defined as useless, bearing comparison to a match that has already been struck or to a sheet of sandpaper that has become smooth. Not Floyd Morris, who retains a refreshing level of utility as a servant in the greatest deliberative body in the world.
But I have a beef with Senator Morris and his leadership of the Upper House. Since succeeding the Reverend Stanley Redwood in May 2013, Senator Morris has struggled to impose himself on proceedings in the House.
FAILURE TO FOLLOW-UP
At times, it's as if he forgets that he's not in the Senate as an extra member of the government side. He allows questions to be asked of ministers that ought properly to be addressed by ministers in the House of Representatives. Ask A.J. Nicholson how many times he has received questions for which he has to seek answers from his colleagues in the Lower House.
Senator Morris has also cultivated a practice where legitimate questions asked of ministers go unanswered for several sittings, with the most wishy-washy excuses being given for the failure to table appropriate responses. He reacts, often with a barely disguised irritability, to a persistent opposition member who wants to know why answers have not been forthcoming for questions tabled several weeks before.
From my vantage in TV land, Senator Morris appears to allow government members to front the weakest of excuses for their tardiness, while seeming to want to throttle those opposition members who demand answers.
Since last June, Senator Morris has been struggling to handle Opposition Senator Robert Montague, his old schoolmate and tormentor from St Mary High. Montague has sought to exploit the genteel side of Senator Morris by pushing the envelope through the manner and quality of his interventions, on and off microphone.
A FIRM FOOT NEEDED
For several sittings, Montague, an opportunist and a bit of an exhibitionist in the Senate, was allowed to, if not flout, stray dangerously close to the margins of the Standing Orders, without being 'drawn up' by Senator Morris. Through his own weakness and uncertainty in leadership, Senator Morris was forced to overcompensate by using the iron fist to exert belated control over proceedings in the House.
The result of that has seen him appear to be biased against Montague and Tom Tavares-Finson, to the extent that the latter has accused him of treating him like a boy.
Additionally, the loose, undisciplined approach to the business of the Senate under Floyd Morris' watch created the conditions for Senator Nicholson to have a mad moment with the "flexi-rape" episode. For a master class in meek leadership during a difficult moment, replay the tape of Senator Morris' attempt to coax an apology from Senator Nicholson, when he really ought to have ordered same. Had the Senate president been stronger and more decisive, the flexi-rape matter could have been dealt with there and then.
Stanley Redwood led the Senate with distinction for 16 months. Michael Peart continues to handle the business of the House of Representatives with authority and fairness. But my dear Floyd Morris, you are failing as leader of the Senate. I invite you to do better.