Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Sedated Senate

(Unedited Version)

The composition of the Senate is specified in the Constitution of Jamaica. Section 35:

The Senate shall consist of twenty one persons who being qualified as appointment as Senators in accordance with this Constitution have been so appointed in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Thirteen are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister - Section 35(2) and the remaining eight on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition - Section 35 (3).

The disqualifications for membership in the Senate are similar to that of the House of Representatives. Accordingly, the judgement handed down by McCalla CJ. is applicable to members of the Senate insofar as it relates to the interpretation of Section 40 (2)

Amazingly, the Senators have maintained a stony silence and continue to find solace as they remain outside the glare of public attention which is focussed, albeit temporarily, on members of the Lower House.

Such non-response engenders the presumption that none is "by virtue of his own act under acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign Power or State" - Section 40 (2) (a)".

It is open to public debate that this presumption is eminently rebuttable and can only be upheld by the Senators themselves coming out of the citizenship closet and declaring openly their status.

The situation is further compounded by the presence of numerous Attorneys-at-Law, Ministers of Justice, Attorneys-General and at least four Queens Counsel (QC) amongst this non-elected Upper House. The fact that those who nominated them were unmindful of the constitutional requirements cannot provide refuge in light of the publicity surrounding the dual citizenship saga in the elected Lower House.

The members of the Senate have no interest in the outcome of an appeal dealing ostensibly with the effectiveness of disqualification notices and electoral consequences. They need not await any court rulings or talks aimed at collective confessions. The Attorney-General should take the lead and the Opposition spokesman on Constitutional Affairs - himself a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General - could not restrain himself.

This is an opportunity to dispel popular notions that the Senate merely acts as a rubber stamp of the intentions of those below. The Senate can no longer remain sedated by electoral considerations. Integrity in public life demands no less.

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