'Senate bully'

Gov't, Opposition clash during debate on anti-terrorism bills

Saturday, November 30, 2019

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THE debate on amendments to two anti-terrorism Bills in the Senate yesterday descended into a noisy interlude, during which the issue of who is a “bully” in the Senate was raised.

The noisy exchange followed a response from the Opposition benches by Senator Lambert Brown to the opening arguments raised by Leader of Government Business Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

Senator Johnson Smith had opened the debate on the new regulations for the Terrorism Prevention (Reporting Entities) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019, Resolution, and The United Nations Security Council Resolutions Implementation (Reporting Entities) Regulations. The regulations made some changes to a previous set circulated to members, including replacing the use of the term “money laundering” with the term “terrorist financing”, as well as an increase in the Parish Court fines cap from $3 million to $5 million.

Senator Johnson Smith, who is also the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, noted that the exercise was a continuation of the legislative programme in both Houses of Parliament, which is aimed at not only ensuring that suspicious use of funds for terrorist activities is detected and reported, and which could also ease the pressure on cannabis farmers by isolating them from terrorist activities.

“What we are seeking to do is to ensure that our financial systems are sufficiently robust,” she explained. She noted that over the past few weeks both Houses of Parliament have been occupied with amendments to the substantive legislation, as well as the new regulations.

“So the context, as we all recall, is that Jamaica is not only strengthening our financial systems, but we are making sure that we move out of that enhanced follow-up process in which we have been placed by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and the International Financial Task Force, which are, of course, the Caribbean and international organisations charged with addressing matters of anti-money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing,” she noted.

But, Senator Brown, who responded for the Opposition in the absence of its leader in the Senate Donna Scott Mottley, while accepting that the Opposition would support the regulations, warned her against “rubber stamping without checking the implication”, and urged her to put her “house in order”.

“The courage to stand up for Jamaica against bullies is what we expect from our minister of foreign affairs,” he added.

“I know that the Jamaican people watch me stand up to a bully every Friday. So I know they have absolutely no concern,” Senator Johnson Smith responded, when she rose to close the debate.

“If raising legitimate questions in the Senate makes me a bully in her eyes, I proudly wear that label,” Senator Brown remarked, as both sides of Senate took up the issue.

President of the Senate Thomas Tavares-Finson noted that the minister did not refer to any particular member, when she made the statement.

“All I say is that I understand a coward when I see and hear one,” Brown responded.

“And you didn't call any name either, so we will move on,” Tavares-Finson reacted.

The Senate then passed the regulations with the support of both sides.


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