Senate suspends debate on pensions bill | Lead Stories

After a firm resolve yesterday from Leader of Government Business in the Upper House Kamina Johnson Smith that debate and passage of the Pensions (Public Service) Act will go on, despite appeals to delay it from her opposition counterpart, Mark Golding, it was an impassioned plea by Senator Dr Floyd Morris that caused the Senate leader to relent and suspend further deliberations on the bill.

Golding had argued that the agenda for the business of the Senate indicated that debate on the pension’s law would “continue”, noting that there was no clear suggestion that efforts would be made yesterday to pass the bill.

He said that opposition members did not expect to debate and pass the bill yesterday, but were prepared to deal with an amendment to the Local Government Act, which was also on the agenda.

Senator Lambert Brown also urged the government side to delay the debate for another week, noting that even if the bill was passed in the Lower House, it would not be able to approve the amendments at this time as they had taken their summer break.

However, Johnson Smith had first declared that the bill was tabled in April and her colleague, Senator Ruel Reid, had opened the debate. She contended that pension reform was a clear and present danger for Jamaica’s fiscal programme.

“It is a regrettable situation, but we have to proceed,” Johnson Smith said.

Despite her initial position, it was Morris’ appeal that resonated with Senate President Tom Tavares Finson and Johnson Smith. According to Morris, he had received amendments to the bill during the afternoon and it would not be possible for him to participate in the deliberations without the information being formatted so that he could access it. Morris is blind and uses Braille to participate in parliamentary debates.

Following his intervention, Tavares Finson said that his explanation found favour with him, as well as Johnson Smith.

The debate was suspended until the first week of September.

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