Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Female government senators defend Nicholson

Published:Sunday | October 25, 2015 | 10:59 PM
Senator A.J. Nicholson

Female government senators have come out in defense of Senator A.J. Nicholson, who has been accused by his Opposition counterparts of being disrespectful to the women in the Upper House of Parliament.

Nicholson has come under fire from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) after he sought to have Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte suspended from the Senate on Friday for disobeying the standing orders.

This after Malahoo Forte failed to present, as directed by the president of the Senate, a copy of a letter she referenced in which the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had reportedly expressed an interest in travelling to Jamaica to hear cases.

JLP General Secretary Horace Chang accused Nicholson, who is leader of government business in the Senate, of attempting to have Malahoo Forte suspended from the Upper House while on a bathroom break and without a chance to defend herself.

"This gentleman has consistently demonstrated that his approach and actions are more in tuned to the caveman era and have no place in the modern democracy we are seeking to create. We thought his Flexi-Rape comments were the worst he could do but now, by his actions in the Senate last Friday, were are not sure how much lower he is willing to go," Chang said in a media release on Friday.

But in a release issued today, the female government senators say they "condemn the malicious attempt to besmirch Minister Nicholson’s reputation and deliberately confuse the public with lies and changing stories".

"This is unbecoming of political leaders of our great nation and we call on everyone to act responsibly in alignment with our role as servants of the people of Jamaica," the group of female senators added.

"We believe the insertion of the gender card is a deliberate attempt to muddy the water and deflect from the real issue, which is Senator Malahoo-Forte’s blatant disrespect for the president of the Senate and the Senate.

"We see no basis on which the Opposition can truthfully accuse Minster Nicholson of being unfair, disrespectful or showing scant regard for females," stated the group comprising senators Sandrea Falconer, Angela Brown Burke, Imani Duncan-Price and Sophia Frazer Binns.

Below is the statement in full from the female government senators:

We the female members of the Senate on the Government side totally condemn the despicable and unwarranted attacks by the Opposition on the character of the Leader of Government Business, Senator the Honourable AJ Nicholson.

The attacks are grounded on a tissue of lies to cover up the contemptuous and disrespectful conduct of Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte towards the President of the Senate.

All members of the Senate, male and female, are required to comply with the Standing Orders of the Senate. Being female is no excuse to violate the decorum and good order of the Senate.

The truthfulness of the Marshal of the Parliament, (a retired soldier) must never be doubted. He reported that the two occasions on which he was sent by the President to Senator Malahoo Forte, last Friday to ask her to return to the Chamber, he found her in the dining room. This was after her bag had been retrieved from the Chamber by Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith.

How else would the Marshal have been able to return to the President on both occasions with messages from the Senator? Surely, that was not possible if the Senator was in the ladies room, as she and her fellow Party leaders have stated in the public domain.

The Marshal is an independent civil servant with no axe to grind. He has no need to concoct a story to cover up the indefensible.

We have known our Leader of Government Business and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to care deeply about the welfare of our women, and he is also a stickler for appropriate behaviour. Indeed, we have all witnessed how he can be moved to heartfelt apology where he has erred.  We are of the view that in this case, he has not erred in his judgement or actions.

The female Government Senators stand in full support of our Leader of Government Business. We believe the insertion of the gender card is a deliberate attempt to muddy the water and deflect from the real issue which is Senator Malahoo-Forte’s blatant disrespect for the President of the Senate and the Senate.

In reviewing all that transpired; we see no basis on which the Opposition can truthfully accuse Minster Nicholson of being unfair, disrespectful or showing scant regard for females.

In fact, it is our considered opinion that rather than trying to deflect, condemnation should be placed at the feet of Senator Malahoo-Forte who has on several occasions shown scant regard for the President of the Senate, as evidenced in her behaviour on Thursday and Friday.

It must be noted that Senator Malahoo Forte escaped suspension when she deliberately disobeyed the instructions of the President during the sitting on Thursday. This was due to the lenient consideration of the President and the Minister of Justice. However, rules are rules and Senator Malahoo Forte knows them.


We condemn this kind of disrespect for our Senate President who has overcome much and has been elevated to a position of leadership in our country.

Indeed, we also condemn the malicious attempt to besmirch Minister Nicholson’s reputation and deliberately confuse the public with lies and changing stories. This is unbecoming of political leaders of our great nation and we call on everyone to act responsibly in alignment with our role as servants of the people of Jamaica.

The facts

 

On Thursday October 22, 2015, Senator Malahoo- Forte in her presentation on the CCJ read into the records of the Senate, a letter which she claimed confirms the willingness of the Privy Council to sit in Jamaica. This letter was allegedly addressed to the then Honourable Minister of Justice.

The Minister of Justice, Senator, the Honourable Mark Golding, informed the Senate that the Ministry after an exhaustive search was unable to locate any such letter in its registry. Both the President and Senator Golding requested a copy of the letter and the President further directed Senator Malahoo-Forte to provide the Senate with a copy.   She left the sitting on Thursday without submitting the letter to the Senate.

On Friday, October 23, 2015, at the start of the sitting, the President again instructed that the letter be provided to the Senate. Senator, the Honourable Minister Mark Golding then indicated that he had also emailed Senator Malahoo Forte the evening before reminding her to furnish the Senate with a copy of the letter purportedly from the Privy Council and addressed to the office of the Minister of Justice.

The Minister once again asked the President to use his good offices to secure the letter in question. It was therefore very curious that Senator Malahoo Forte told the President that she was unable to locate the letter which must be among her papers.  The President repeated his directive that the letter be provided to the Senate that day.


Sometime in the afternoon, Senator Malahoo-Forte left the Chamber and later sent a male orderly to retrieve her bag. On seeing this, the Leader of Government Business, given the previous deflections on an important matter, was concerned that the Senator may be leaving the Parliament without producing the letter. As such, Minister Nicholson alerted the President and asked that the Senator be requested to return to the Chamber and provide the letter. The President instructed the Marshall to ask Senator Malahoo-Forte to return to the Chamber.  On his return, he told the President that Senator Malahoo Forte said "message received."

As the Senate was nearing adjournment, the President again asked the Marshal to request that the Senator return to the Chamber. On his return, he said Senator Malahoo Forte has responded that the President could proceed to adjourn the sitting as she had already given her undertaking to provide the letter.

It must be noted that on the two occasions she was still in the dining room area and not in the restroom as is being alleged.

In accordance with the rules of the Standing Orders, the President proceeded to name the Senator and the motion was moved and carried for the Senator to be suspended until the letter is provided to the Senate.

It is interesting to note that Senator Malahoo-Forte returned to the Chamber before the President departed and made no effort to present the letter or engage him in anyway.

Senator Sandrea Falconer
Senator Angela Brown Burke
Senator Imani Duncan-Price
Senator Sophia Frazer Binns