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Knight suspended - FID Bill passed

Published:Saturday | March 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

UNEXPECTED CONTROVERSY unfolded yesterday at the first sitting of the Upper House in the new parliamentary year, with the Senate suspending senior opposition senator K.D. Knight for two meetings.

The sitting of the Senate was delayed for a little more than two hours while members of the Government side huddled to craft a motion to censure Knight.

The resolution was debated and passed before the crucial Financial Investigation Division (FID) Bill was discussed in the Senate.

Passage of the FID Bill was mandatory for Jamaica to get more support from the International Monetary Fund. The bill was later passed.

In a gruelling debate on the motion to suspend Knight, Government senators yesterday used their superior numbers to pass the resolution. Knight was absent from the sitting.

The motion, moved by Junior Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr Ronald Robinson, called for the suspension of Knight for describing as "stupid" Senate leader Dorothy Lightbourne.

Strong signal

In his comments, Dr Robinson said the action taken against the member would send a strong signal that the Government side would not tolerate disparaging remarks about the leader.

His colleague Desmond McKenzie agreed, saying Knight's statement was disrespectful to Lightbourne.

National Security Minister Dwight Nelson also took Knight to task for brushing aside the ruling of Senate President Oswald Harding last week that he should apologise.

But Leader of Opposition Business A.J. Nicholson described the motion as a "red herring".

According to Nicholson, if the rules of the Senate were being adhered to, there would be no need to debate a resolution to suspend a senator.

His colleague Norman Grant said the conduct of the Senate had become shameful over time.

"My recommendation is that the mover of the motion withdraws this motion and that this entire chamber engage in consultation where we accept personal responsibility and commit to the oath that we take," he said.

In a sharp criticism of the action taken by the Government side, Senator Basil Waite said it was "hypocrisy at its worst".

"I would be very disappointed if you were to sit in the chair as president of the Senate and allow something like this to go ahead," he said, directing his comment to Harding.

Senator Waite then recommended that the matter be referred to the Privileges Committee of Parlia-ment.

President Harding told the Senate that whether or not he agreed with the motion he had to observe the Standing Orders and allow it to be taken.

Nicholson appealed to Harding, urging him to suggest that the Senate delay passage of the motion to give Knight an opportunity to defend himself.

However, at the end of the debate the Opposition called for a divide.

The motion was passed with 10 Government members voting aye, five opposition senators saying no and five members were absent.

- edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com