Senate Standing Orders Committee to further probe Malahoo-Forte suspension issue
The Senate's Standing Orders Committee has been asked to consider whether the President has the authority to take on to himself powers which are not expressly provided in the Standing Orders — the rules guiding parliamentary proceedings.
In October, Floyd Morris, the President of the Senate, relied on Standing Order 4(6) in suspending Marlene Malahoo Forte from the Senate over her failure to produce a letter from the London-based Privy Council from which she quoted in her contribution to the debate on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Opposition Senator Arthur Williams argues that the president has no powers which are not expressly provided in the Standing Orders and has included the issue among several items which the Privileges Committee has been asked to consider.
The motion, among other things, says Standing Order 4(6) does not confer on the President of the Senate, the authority to give himself any power which he does not have under the Standing Orders or under the practise of the House of Commons of Great Britain.
The Privileges Committee, after considering the matter, said the issue should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate for further deliberation.
It recommended that the Senate accept that the suspension of Malahoo Forte would have been avoided if she had acted promptly in providing a document which was requested by the Senate president; and if certain facts which are now known had been brought to his attention.
Those facts include the return of Malahoo Forte to the chamber just before the adjournment.
In suspending Malahoo Forte, Morris relied on Standing Order 4(6), which he claims gives the president authority to make rulings where there are gaps in the Standing Orders.
Malahoo Forte was deemed to have been in contempt of an order from the President to return to the chamber before the adjournment of a sitting last month and hand over the letter.
The Privileges Committee's findings:
1) A member of the Senate is entitled to cite documents in their possession which are not before the Senate.
2) There is no provision in the Standing Orders nor usage and practise of the Commons House of Parliament of Great Britain to require a Member who is not a Minister, to hand over to anyone a document in his possession.
3) There is no convention of the Jamaican Parliament that gives the presiding officer — be it the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate — the authority to direct a member who is not a Minister, to hand over a document which they have cited.
The Privileges Committee recommended that the Standing Orders Committee should consider for inclusion in the Standing Orders of the Senate, rules to deal with a situation where a Senator has agreed to produce a document but has failed to do so within a reasonably practicable time.
However, the Committee decided not to pursue the matter as to whether certain action cannot validly lead to the suspension.
Instead, it has asked the Standing Orders Committee to consider whether there is any provision in parliamentary rules dealing with contempt and whether the failure of a member to fulfil an undertaking amounts to contempt.