MITCHELL ON SENATE PRESIDENT

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5th November 2019

Senator Fred Mitchell, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, released the contents of the letter he wrote to Senate President Kay Forbes Smith about her dual role as Senate President and working for the Cabinet as the Hurricane Czar in Freeport, Grand Bahama.  Here is how Tribune’s Rashad Rolle reported the matter. 

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE official Opposition in the Senate will contest Kay Forbes-Smith’s dual roles as Senate president and lead coordinator of post-Dorian recovery efforts in Grand Bahama, according to Fred Mitchell. 

The Progressive Liberal Party believes it is improper for Mrs Forbes-Smith to simultaneously preside over a legislative body and work for the executive, particularly now as the Senate debates a disaster management bill.

Mr Mitchell, leader of Opposition business in the chamber, said: “What we plan to do is similar to what happens when you bring a vote of no confidence against the speaker of the House. The issue is this: suppose when I speak in the Senate I say hurricane relief in Grand Bahama has been a disaster and it has been a disaster because of her role in the recovery? The rules now say you cannot attack the presiding officer unless you bring a substantive motion. So where does that put me? Must I censor myself because she’s sitting in the chair?”

Mr Mitchell said ideally the administration should not have made the Senate president head of Grand Bahama’s recovery efforts in the first place.

In the current context, he said she should at least recuse herself from debates about bills responding to Hurricane Dorian.

“I’m not sure that resolves the substantive issue but in the circumstances she should remove herself,” he said.

Debate began in the Senate yesterday on the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill 2019.

Mr Mitchell was not present, but Senator Jobeth Davis raised her party’s complaint. Mrs Forbes-Smith did not respond.

In a letter he sent to her last month, Mr Mitchell said: “It is anticipated that the above captioned matter (the Disaster Management Act 2019) will come before us within the next week. This is likely to invite criticism of the role of the government in hurricane relief and according to the press, you have been brought on as a coordinator for the hurricane relief in Grand Bahama. There is also now a minister for hurricane relief and a minister of state for the same. On the face of it and without more, this is incompatible in this side’s view with the position of presiding officer of the Senate which is a legislative body and its presiding officer should not be subject to the dictates of the executive. In our present rules, we will have to bring a substantive motion to air our complaint on this and are seeking to resolve the conflict by pointing this out to you in advance so that you might take appropriate action to resolve the conflict, without resort to such a motion.”