Senate says 'yes' - Vote to extend state of emergency gets nod despite testy exchanges
Like their colleague law-makers in the Lower House, members of the Senate yesterday voted in support of extending the state of public emergency in St James, but the debate on the resolution to give effect to the continuation of the operation by the security forces was not without controversy.
With 21 members in the Senate, the two-thirds majority needed to pass the resolution was achieved as 15 senators said yes to extending the state of public emergency by a three-month period ending May 2, this year. Another six senators were absent, having tendered apologies.
However, unlike in the Lower House, the debate in the Senate was characterised by testy exchanges (sometimes sotto voce) between Opposition Senator Lambert Brown and State Minister for National Security Pearnel Charles Jr as the former blasted the Government for failing to stem the spike in murders in 2017.
Charles even rose on a point of order in one instance to dismiss claims by Brown that the Government had failed to present a comprehensive crime plan.
However, Senate President Tom Tavares Finson allowed Brown to continue.
Brown argued that despite the state of public emergency, murders are running at a rate of 5.1 per day.
"Multiply that 5.1 per day for January 2018 by 365 days. We are looking at 1,895 likely murders. That should be frightening to us," the Opposition senator said.
He charged that the Senate ignored a suggestion he made in February 2017 that a joint select committee be established to come up with recommendations to fight crime.
"This did not even earn us a discussion in the Senate, and you're talking about passing law to lock up man like me. That's the mindset you have, young man. You are in the wrong place," declared Brown as he took aim at Charles Jr.
At one point, when Govern-ment members heckled Brown, he made a suggestion that raised eyebrows.
"You want my vote, allow me to speak, because if I am going to be run out of the Senate, I won't be able to vote."
Brown was among those who voted in support of the resolution.
In his contribution, Government Senator Matthew Samuda rebuked Brown for his utterance, describing his comment as "despicable". It holds the people of St James hostage, Samuda said.
He hailed the show of unity in the Lower House, adding that Brown's contribution was "unfortunate".
In his remarks, Opposition Senator K.D. Knight said that the bipartisan support from the Lower House sent a good message to the country.
"Let us see how we can work together to see how we can get some success out of this," Knight said.