Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Nicholson chides Montague's presentation
ROBERT MONTAGUE'S decision to add political colour to his contribution to the state of the national debate in the Senate on Friday was met with a fiery rebuke from A.J. Nicholson, who said the upper legislative chamber should not be used for politicking.
"The Senate is not to be used as a political platform," Nicholson said.
He made the the comment following Montague's hour-long presentation, which saw the opposition senator taking jabs at the Government.
Nicholson reminded the members of the wording of the motion upon which the debate had been entered: "Be it resolved that the Senate thank his excellency the governor general for his gracious speech delivered to both Houses of Parliament on May 10, 2012, approve the plans and programmes outlined in his gracious speech, and place on record its appreciation of the performance of the Government."
Nicholson said such a motion could not be found in the House of Representatives.
"The Senate is a place apart. If some of us wish to continue to use the Senate as a political platform, let that be, but we will continue to protest," he said.
But Arthur Williams, leader of opposition business, said the members on his side had been abiding by the standing orders - the rules governing the Senate.
"We are not limited in our comments to what was said in the Throne Speech," said Williams. He said members were free to discuss any aspect of the state of the nation of Jamaica.
During his address on Friday, Montague, who lost his West St Mary seat in the House of Representatives in last December's general election, said the Government "was anti-poor, heartless, and uncaring."
He said the Portia Simpson Miller-led People's National Party (PNP) administration was "a government of retreats, a government in retreat."
"A one-term government," added Montague, who is also acting chairman of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
Montague knocked the Government for the decision to transfer the secretary-manager of the Clarendon Parish Council to Lucea, saying there appeared to have been a political motive behind it.
"This same excellent officer is one of the best officers in the system and was accused of being a member of the PNP then. Yet today, she is being accused of being a member of the JLP! All because she dares to do her job," Montague said.
The opposition senator said Jamaica was facing a crisis of leadership and argued that if the Government did not quickly pull up its socks, October 24 and Hurricane Sandy would not be the only disaster Jamaica would face.
"We would have had one on December 29, 2011, as well," Montague said, referring to the last general election in which the PNP won 42 seats to 21 in the 63-seat House of Representatives.
"We can and will recover from Hurricane Sandy, but can we recover from the other? I say a resounding yes, but we must collectively ensure that our sacrifices are not wasted. We demand leadership, which is now absent," Montague said.
Lack of confidence
He blasted the Government for requiring the nation to make sacrifices during these tough financial times and said the leaders were not prepared to make any such sacrifices.
"Our leaders must level with us, must take us into their confidence. Don't ask us to make sacrifices without discussing the IMF deal with us," Montague argued.
He continued: "Call us together - Opposition, civil society, the press, unions, academia - and tell us the truth. Tell us where you want to take us. Share your vision, ask for our advice and cooperation. Let us guide you."
"That is people power," he said, as he called upon the campaign theme of the PNP in the last general election.
Montague said if the Government failed to consult the country on critical issues such as the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, "a Jamaican Spring might just be waiting".