Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Senate chaos

Published:Saturday | November 29, 2014 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

FLOYD Morris, president of the Senate, has vowed to "take decisive action" the next time any senator seeks to ignore his authority.

Morris, who last month said he would be taking a no-nonsense approach to the enforcement of the rules of the Senate, made the comments yesterday after the two most senior opposition senators, Robert Montague and Tom Tavares-Finson, showed defiance towards his ruling.

Tavares-Finson refused to take his seat, and accused Morris of "dealing with me with an iron fist". He insisted that while the president has the right to instruct members to take their seats, "I have the right to register my disapproval."

The sitting of the Senate all but degenerated into a mini-brawl after government senators accused Tavares-Finson of not paying attention.

It began when Tavares-Finson, leader of opposition business, rose to protest a decision made by justice minister Mark Golding, that the business of the day would come to an end, and that the review chamber would re-convene next Thursday.

Tavares-Finson noted that the Senate should have debated two bills - the Timeshare Vacations Act 2014, and the Evidence (Amendment) Act 2014. He also said that Thursday's sitting was set without consultation, a comment which drew disapproval from the government members who informed him that the announcement of a Thursday sitting was made a week earlier.

Morris then instructed Tavares-Finson to take his seat, an instruction which some government senators joined.

'DON'T TELL ME TO SIT'

"Don't tell me to sit ... do not do that! Not even my parents address me like that," Tavares-Finson, while adding that Senator Wensworth Skeffrey should not shout at him.

Despite the insistence of Morris that Tavares-Finson take his seat, the leader of opposition business remained standing and argued with the president.

"Every meeting of the senate it is just 'sit down, sit down, sit down'. I am tired of it!" he said.

Under the Standing Orders of the Senate, whenever the president or chairman rises during a debate, any member then speaking or offering to speak shall sit down, and the Senate or committee shall be silent so that the president or chairman may be heard without interruption.

Having quoted the rule, Morris signalled that he would not tolerate anymore defiance.

"The member is supposed to extend the courtesy just as how I extend courtesies to all members here to sit. There is no need for any member to be offended. But there are members in this Senate who continue to violate the rules when the president is on his feet or is speaking and I am not going to condone it. Next time it happens I am going to take decisive action," Morris said.

Convinced that Morris relied on the wrong Standing Order, Montague attempted to rise on a point of order but the president would have none of it. He brought down the gavel and adjourned the Senate.

A furious Montague said: "Oh, that's how yuh doing it now. OK, me lord. A hope what you start yuh can finish. OK, me lord. OK, me lord."

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com