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Senate president, acting clerk say Horne shall not be removed

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Senate president, acting clerk say Horne shall not be removed

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior Staff Reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 06, 2020

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It is unlikely that that Opposition Leader Mark Golding can remove (Senator) Norman Horne from the Senate, without his approval.

This is the view of both the president of the Senate, Senator Thomas Tavares Finson, and the acting clerk of the Houses of Parliament Valrie Curtis, both of whom are attorneys-at-law.

Senator Tavares Finson and the acting clerk are agreed that Horne became a member of the Senate after King’s House sent the list of newly appointed senators, selected by then Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips, which means that Horne has already become a member of the Senate on the appointment of the governor general.

He said that the writ sent to Parliament from King’s House clearly states, “I hereby appoint you as a Senator.”

“You see, the governor general would have already appointed the eight senators. If he should go ahead now and appoint Bunting, there would be nine Opposition senators, and if Horne decides that he is not giving it up, they can’t move him,” Tavares Finson explained.

“I have also heard the argument that he has missed six meetings of the Senate [which would automatically remove him], but he is not subject to the Standing Orders because he has not been sworn in. The bottom line is that Horne can remain in the Senate as long as he wants, and if he chooses to come to the Senate next week to be sworn in, I can’t turn him away,” the Senate president also noted.

According to the clerk, while Horne cannot take part in debates and vote, outside of an election for a new president, he has a right to remain in the Senate without taking an oath.

“It is left to him to come and take his seat, if he so wishes. He has not taken his seat, so there is no seat for him to vacate. I looked at the constitution and there is no time limit for him to take the oath. There is no time limit, except, as soon as possible,” she pointed out.

Horne was the only one of the eight people recommended for the Senate by Dr Phillips, after the September 3 General Election, who has not been sworn in. However, despite his absence from meetings of the Senate, he remains one of the eight Opposition members.

In fact, the Senate’s Standing Orders justify this position, when it states that: “No member of the Senate shall sit or vote therein except for the purpose of electing a President, until he has taken an Oath of Allegiance: Provided that any person authorised by law to make an affirmation instead of taking an oath shall be permitted to make a Solemn Affirmation in lieu of the Oath of Allegiance.”

Senator Tavares Finson noted that a fairly similar situation arose when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) members Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton refused to resign as Opposition senators after Andrew Holness became leader of the party in 2013. Although some legal minds felt that, despite the absence of expressed language providing for their dismissal, political leaders could nonetheless dismiss senators, as the legal power to appoint includes the power to revoke.

However, the Supreme Court rejected those arguments and came down on the side of the two JLP senators, claiming that it was protecting the independence of the Senate, once it has been constituted. Holness had to apologise to both colleagues in the wake of the ruling by the Constitutional Court that their removal from the Senate was unconstitutional as well as null and void.

Horne, however, is no stranger to local politics, as his last relationship with the People’s National Party ended in 2016 after a campaign financing scandal erupted following a report he sent to the party’s National Executive Council accusing senior party officials of not turning over, to the party, money collected in the lead-up to the February 25 General Election that year. He was assigned police protection after the issue became public.

His career has been shrouded with controversy since his return home from the United States in 2001, after being lured into joining the JLP by then leader Edward Seaga to contest the Manchester Central constituency. He was appointed to the Senate by Seaga in 2002, after losing to John Junor in Manchester Central, but quit the JLP and assumed the role of an independent senator a year later. He also lost when he ran for the PNP in the St Elizabeth South Eastern seat in 2007.

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