Sat | Dec 2, 2023

Senate president says sorry for using the 'F' word in Upper House

Published:Saturday | March 27, 2021 | 10:25 PM
Tavares-Finson... I responded in a way that is most uncharacteristic of me, so I wish to apologise - Gladstone Taylor photo

Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson has apologised for dropping an F-bomb in the Upper House of Parliament during a bad-tempered row with Opposition Senator Lambert Brown.

Brown, who was debating a bill to amend the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) on Friday, sought to establish his "independence" as a lawmaker, indicating that he was not obliged to follow a position taken by the opposition leader.

“It is well known, Mr President, that we in the Senate, on this side, have independence. We didn’t sign any undated letters. We are not like you who signed undated letters,” Brown charged.

IN PHOTO: Opposition Senator Lambert Brown

He was hinting at a 2015 court ruling that doomed as unconstitutional then Opposition Leader Andrew Holness' bid to remove government senators Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton in 2013 with pre-signed, undated letters.

Brown's remarks came against the background of a comment by Leader of Government Business Kamina Johnson Smith that Opposition Leader Mark Golding had informed Prime Minister Andrew Holness that he did not have to establish a joint select committee to examine the DRMA.

Brown insisted that a joint select committee was crucial based on the wide powers being given to the prime minister to make orders that attract criminal sanctions under the amended law.

However, Tavares-Finson intervened, reminding Brown of Johnson Smith’s remarks.

“You don’t hear what the leader said, that the Leader of the Opposition rejected the invitation for a joint select committee?” Tavares-Finson questioned.

The sitting then took a turn that eventually led to scathing remarks being exchanged between Brown and Tavares-Finson.

“Let I tell you something, Senator Brown, ‘Don’t draw my tongue in here today,” Tavares-Finson warned.

Brown retorted: “I don’t draw men tongue.”

The Senate president added: “Everybody know how unuh reach over there, so don’t try that with me in here ... and when I use that phrase, I am quoting a well-known Jamaican prime minister. Don’t draw my tongue in here today. F***ing feisty!”

Later during the sitting, Tavares-Finson said he was sorry for making the remark.

“I wish to apologise to you because, you said something to me and I responded in a way that is most uncharacteristic of me, so I wish to apologise to you and to the viewers at home who may or may not have picked up a sotto voce remark that I made,” he said.

“I apologise to you publicly and I apologise to the younger viewers at home who might have found my strenuousness a bit unsettling,” he added.

Johnson Smith thanked the president for his “gentlemanly conduct”.

It was a day when other comments drew spirited responses. 

Senator Damion Crawford was pressed by the Government benches to retract a comment he made about the prime minister.

IN PHOTO: Opposition Senator Damion Crawford

“Many who have criticised Mr Holness have been arrested and publicised on the Internet ...” said Crawford.

READ: Crawford stirs controversy in Senate over Holness comment

Johnson Smith demanded a retraction, calling his statement “misleading and baseless”.

After a long exchange between members on both sides of the aisle, Crawford recanted.

The bill to amend the DRMA was passed after a lengthy debate with three amendments. 

The legislative change is being pushed in a bid to crack down on behaviour linked to a spiralling two-month wave of coronavirus infection that has  cases surging past 37,700. 

Up to Saturday, a total of 566 people have died from the virus.

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