Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Senate adjourns in controversy

Published:Monday | February 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Morris

A TENSE stand-off between government senators and their opposition counterparts characterised what many believe was the final sitting of the Upper House.

"We are adjourning in a very bad way," Senate President Floyd Morris declared.

Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Tom Tavares-Finson, after raising a controversial issue about a comment purportedly made by his government counterpart A.J. Nicholson about the auditor general, exited the Senate after being shut down by Morris, who insisted that he would not allow any discussion on the issue.

The president directed Tavares-Finson to focus on another matter relating to a statement made by Government Senator Lambert Brown last week.

Brown had referred to the findings of a Performance Audit Report of the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) of 2011, which Monroe Ellis had said she could not find any evidence to show that 11 black tanks, which were supposed to be distributed to beneficiaries (farmers) in Manchester and St Mary, were actually delivered.

"Shame on those who have sought to sully my name. The truth has set me free," Brown said after stoutly defending his previous statement.

Tavares-Finson and his colleague, Robert Montague, who was the minister of agriculture in 2011, had raised strong objection to Brown's comment, saying the member had misled the Senate.

This spilled over into Friday's sitting, with Tavares-Finson insisting that Brown withdraw his comment.

LACKED TRANSPARENCY

Brown, however, quoted from the auditor's general report, which indicated, at the time, that the black-tank irrigation project in both Manchester and St Mary lacked transparency. The auditor general's report also stated that "despite our request, NIC did not present any evidence to substantiate the actual delivery of tanks and water to the beneficiaries".

Montague hit back saying that there was no missing tank as stated by Brown. "The NIC, the Ministry of Agriculture, the RADA (Rural Agriculture Development Authority) visited, took pictures. They did all the follow-ups and checks, police got involved, all of that was done. The auditor general, in the said report, made some recommendations to the NIC and the Ministry of Agriculture that they have taken on board and implemented."

In a brief intervention, Opposition Senator Christopher Tufton said: "We should be careful we tarnish our stewardship."

At the end, the Senate president instructed Montague to retract his comment that Brown had misled the Senate. Montague acquiesced, but not before protesting the instructions of Morris.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com