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Senate welcomes back Crawford, and initiates Haughton

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The Senate welcomed two young members — Damion Crawford and Dr Andre Haughton — to its membership with their swearing-in at Friday’s sitting.

After taking the formalities, the president, Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson asked Senator Pearnel Charles Jnr, who was acting as Leader of Government Business, and Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, the Leader of Opposition Business, to welcome the senators before a gallery crowded with students from Ocho Rios High School and The Mico College, plus relatives, friends and supporters of the entrees.

Senator Charles welcomed Haughton as a friend from their days at The University of the West Indies (UWI), and urged him to help raise the bar of discussion to enable the Senate to live up to the perception of being the “Upper House”.

“The country is watching and expecting more than they have ever expected from leaders before…and we have to listen and adapt,” said Charles, a second-generation parliamentarian and son of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles.

“We are seen as the Upper House for a reason, because we are expected to have a level of discussion and deliberation here that may not have occurred yet,” said the young Charles, who was just recently promoted to the Cabinet as minister without portfolio, following the resignation of former Deputy Leader of Government Business Ruel Reid.

Senator Scott-Mottley must have scared the hell out of Damion Crawford, who was returning to the senate from which he resigned recently for his abortive attempt at winning the Portland Eastern seat for the People’s National Party (PNP).

“I have mixed emotions on this occasion, as I had hoped that I would not have to call Damion Crawford a Senator, anymore,” she told the Senate.

“I was looking forward to see him serve the country in a different way and representing the people, as I know he has a tremendous capacity to do. But, apparently we are meant to spend the rest of this journey together. Because, you do recall that it was October, 2016 that we were both thrown in together, and so I think that destiny has said we must start and end the same way,” she added.

Well, that might have raised doubts in Crawford’s mind about his future there, as he remains the caretaker for the Opposition party in Portland Eastern, and is obviously looking forward to another shot at the seat when the next general election is called.

However, with the leadership issues in the PNP it seems very unlikely that there will be new elections this year. So both Crawford and Haughton, the latter who was recently named as his party’s standard bearer in St James West Central, should have at least a year of enjoying each other’s company in the Senate while they await the next challenge.

 

Senate likely to get UDC St Ann land sale report next Friday

The Integrity Commission is expected to table the delayed report on the Urban Development Corporation’s (UDC) sale of a beachfront property in St Ann to Mexican luxury hotel group Palace Resorts, which was allegedly acquired below the valuation.

President of the Senate, Tom Tavares-Finson, came under unfriendly fire from Opposition senators Friday, mainly Lambert Brown and K D Knight, for refusing to be more drastic in ensuring the tabling of the report by the Integrity Commission (IC).

Brown described the IC’s failure to table the document on Friday as “nothing short of contempt” on the part of the commission, noting that the report was expected from 2017.

Knight, while admitting that he was not clear on the statutes governing the role of the Senate in situations like these, urged the president to demand that the IC table the report at the next sitting.

“If my reasoning is correct, anything short of my suggestion for demanding the report is going to cause the public at large to begin to speculate and, even moreso, it is going to undermine their confidence in the Integrity Commission,” Knight said.

“It is going to undermine their confidence in the ‘Upper Chamber’, where we are not as concerned about political behaviour as the ‘the Lower Chamber’, as we are seen as being above that. Let us do, if my interpretation [of the rules] is correct, that which we are charged with the responsibility to do and, as a senator, I am now calling on the leader of this chamber, the president, I am calling on you sir to exercise your authority and have this report tabled by the next sitting.”

Former president of the Senate, Senator Floyd Morris, virtually ordered that the president make the demand, and summon the members of the commission to Gordon House, if they failed to deliver.

But, Senator Charles Sinclair (Government) noted that the Opposition senators had gone a step too far, without knowing what was delaying the report.

“Listening to the comments, there is an attempt to cast motive on the Integrity Commission, and you are going down a very dangerous road,” Senator Sinclair warned.

However, it is likely that the report will be tabled when the Senate next meets, and what will be the consequences, nobody really knows. But, there seems to have been an agreement between the UDC and the Mexicans for a concession based on an undertaking to develop the land which might have been given preference over a straight sales price.

 

Disabillities Act not yet implemented…five years later

Isn’t it interesting that with all the noise and fanfare which greeted the passage of the Disabilities Act in 2014, the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities says it is looking forward to the implementation of the Act this year.

The announcement was made by minister of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Zavia Mayne, in a message delivered at an event to distribute items from the Abilities Foundation Food Bank at the end of March.

“Implementation of the Act will create additional opportunities for persons with disabilities and minimise discrimination against them. We are also striving to put in place the right conditions, so that everyone can participate equally, as we are working towards an inclusive society,” the state minister’s speech stated.

The Disabilities Act makes provisions to safeguard and enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities, across Jamaica. This legislation protects and promotes the equal rights of the disabled and prohibits discrimination against them.

The Act was passed in the Senate in October, 2014, and it seeks to ensure full and effective participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the society.

Its main objectives are: reinforcing and promoting the recognition and acceptance, within Jamaica, of the principle that a person with a disability has the same fundamental rights as any other person; and promoting individual dignity and autonomy, including the freedom of choice and independence, of a person with a disability.

The Bill will also facilitate the establishment of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Disabilities Rights Tribunal.

However, the regulations and codes of practices are still being developed.

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