SUSPENDED! - Morris excludes Malahoo Forte from Senate pending letter supporting claims
President of the Senate Floyd Morris said that, were Marlene Malahoo Forte appearing in a court of law and behaved the same way to a judge as she had to him, she would be cited for contempt of court.
Noting that Malahoo Forte is an attorney-at-law, Morris said he expected her to behave in a certain manner.
Malahoo Forte was yesterday suspended from service in the Senate until she furnishes Morris with a letter supporting her claims that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had expressed an interest in travelling to Jamaica to hear cases.
Malahoo Forte, an opposition senator, made the claim during her contribution to three Caribbean Court of Justice-related bills in the Upper House on Thursday. Following insistence from members of the government side, Morris requested that he be presented with the letter on Friday.
breach of natural justice
Tom Tavares-Finson, the leader of opposition business, said the manner in which the action was taken was a breach of natural justice.
"You have suspended her in her absence and without an explanation, and you call this natural justice," he said.
The events which occurred nearing the end of yesterday's sitting of the Senate were in stark contrast to the way they began. Malahoo Forte was the first to arrive for the sitting and shortly thereafter she was joined by government senators Angela Brown Burke and Imani Duncan Price. The senators chatted and laughed together.
By the time the Senate sitting was about to start, government senators Sandrea Falconer and Wensworth Skeffery joked that Malahoo Forte should be the one to read the designated prayer.
"She needs forgiveness," said Skeffrey, in reference to the previous day's sitting where Morris decided to spare her from sanctions even though government senators were livid that she had violated the rules of the Senate.
Thereafter, it was clear that trouble was on the horizon for Malahoo Forte. President Morris, at the start of the sitting, said he had not received the copy of the letter he requested and wanted to know the situation with it.
"I had the letter here on the desk and when I was looking for it among my things yesterday, I didn't see it. I am not sure where it is, but I think it may be among the papers. I will make it available to you," Malahoo Forte responded.
Morris then said: "I would like to get the letter today."
Justice Minister Mark Golding said he had a "strong interest" in seeing the letter.
"It is a letter addressed to my predecessor (Dorothy Lightbourne) in her official capacity of minister of justice. In the ministry, we have not been able to find that letter," Golding said.
Late into the sitting yesterday, Malahoo Forte left the chamber while government senator Wensworth Skeffery was making his contribution to the debate on the CCJ bills. She was said to be having lunch in the dining room situated outside the chamber.
She sent for her handbag, but when an orderly attempted to take it to her, the orderly was instructed by A.J. Nicholson, the leader of government business, to "put it back".
The bag was subsequently taken out of the chamber by fellow opposition senator Kamina Johnson Smith, an action which led Nicholson to alert Morris that Malahoo Forte may have been seeking to leave the Parliament building without providing the letter.
"The person who you asked that the letter be presented to you ... , her bag was just taken up, and if she is leaving the precincts of the chamber, I ask that you send for her," Nicholson said.
Morris then asked Marshal Kevin Williams to locate Malahoo Forte and have her return to the chamber. No sooner had he received the instructions, Nicholson said, "Marshal, move", while Lambert Brown remarked, "Oh what a tangled web."
The marshal would make two trips from the chamber. On the latter occasion, Morris rose to his feet and said, "I am minded to name her", and stated that Malahoo Forte was being contemptuous.
"I sent the marshal to inform the member that we are about to adjourn and that I need the letter that I requested. The member has sent back to inform me that we can go ahead and adjourn as she has given me the commitment that she will give me the letter," the Senate president said.
"I am not going to be accepting that from the member. I believe it is contemptuous. I believe that it is disrespectful," he added.
Malahoo Forte returned to the chamber after a vote was taken to suspend her from service to the Senate. By that time, only Arthur Williams and Christopher Tufton were on the opposition benches. Neither voted against the motion to suspend her.