Opposition skips Senate sitting
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
The Opposition has signalled that it is unlikely to turn out for a Thursday sitting of the Senate unless there is consultation from the government side.
With the exception of Dr Nigel Clarke, who walked into the Senate chamber at 11:28 yesterday morning, nearly one hour after the start, the opposition benches were empty. He had indicated to Senate President Floyd Morris that he would be late.
Four of Clarke's colleagues indicated that they would have been absent, and Tom Tavares-Finson, leader of opposition business, made it clear that his side skipped yesterday's sitting.
"We are prepared to cooperate with the legislative agenda, but consult us … . We expect to have a meeting of the Senate on a Friday, and if they come tomorrow announcing a meeting of the Senate for next Thursday without consulting me, they are going to see the same thing," Tavares-Finson told The Gleaner.
"We need to be consulted so we can make our plans," he added.
The Senate is made up of 21 unpaid members, 13 from the government side and eight opposition senators.
Following the intervention of K.D. Knight, Justice Minister Mark Golding delayed the opening of the debate on the Evidence Bill to see if any other members of the Opposition would turn up.
Knight argued that having regard to the fact that the Opposition complained last week that they came prepared for the debate on the Evidence Bill, and were disappointed when they were told it would have been postponed, the Government should suspend the debate until today.
Knight yesterday noted that it was the plan to have taken the Evidence Act last week, which was communicated to the Opposition. He said that it would be "a magnanimous gesture" for the debate to be delayed.
"I think it would be appropriate for the minister to take the other bills, and not to take the Evidence Bill until tomorrow (today), which is a regular sitting," Knight said.
Nicholson, however, said that the agenda for yesterday's sitting was communicated on Tuesday, and there was no objection from the Opposition.
"Something must be done about the Evidence Bill today," Nicholson insisted.
The Senate agreed and the Bill was opened, despite Knight's disagreement.