Senate President votes against Govt
Wednesday, September 25 2013
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TIE-BREAKER: Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith speaks during the Budget debate in the Upper House on Monday. He later voted against the Government ...
SENATE President Timothy Hamel-Smith yesterday said he had at the back of his mind the call by President Anthony Carmona for earlier sittings, when he used his tie-break vote against Government in a procedural motion.
Government was on Monday night defeated in the Senate on the procedural motion which had called for the Senate to sit until midnight. The incident happened at just before 6.30 pm when Government Whip in the Senate Ganga Singh, rose to invoke Standing Order 9 (2) which allows the Government Whip to move that the Senate sit later than 6.30 pm.
Singh rose to ask the Senate to let the sitting continue until midnight. However, there was loud objection from Opposition and Independent benches when Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith put the motion to the house. A division was called for by Penny Beckles, the Opposition Whip. The result of the division was 12 Government Senators for and 12 Opposition and Independent Senators against. The Senate President voted with the Opposition and Independents to have the house sit until the normal sitting end-time of 8 pm.
Three Government Senators were missing from the chamber at the time, enabling the Government to be defeated. They were: Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine and Minister of State in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development Raziah Ahmed.
Seven Independents voted against the motion. They were: Helen Drayton; Dr Victor Wheeler; Elton Prescott SC; Dhanayshar Mahabir; David Small; HR Ian Roach; and temporary Independent Senator Dr Aysha Edwards.
Government Senator Dr Bhoe Tewarie and Independent Senator Anthony Vieria had leave to be absent from yesterday’s sitting. They were both replaced by temporary senators.
In casting his vote against the midnight sitting, Hamel-Smith said, “Honorable Members, it is reported that the division has led to a tie. I therefore have the casting vote on this. The Standing Orders provide that the Senate will sit until 8pm unless declared otherwise. And therefore, this house will sit until 8pm unless you declare otherwise.”
In an interview yesterday, Hamel-Smith said he had at the back of his mind President Anthony Carmona’s entreaty to Parliamentarians to avoid late-night sittings. Of the President’s call for earlier sittings that end earlier, he said, “I must confess, yes, that was also on my mind.” He also said he wanted to maintain the status quo, established by the Standing Orders which state sittings, unless otherwise determined, are not to go beyond a certain time.
“The convention is that you should cast the vote in such a way as to retain the status quo,” Hamel-Smith said. “It is not always easy to determine the status quo. But in this instance status quo was that the government has to get an agreement from the senate and if they did not get it then it should not sit beyond the appointed hour. In fact, ironically, we did go beyond the appointed hour of 8 pm as there was a contribution from one senator and Republic Day greetings. Generally, the senate can regulate its own proceedings.”