Opposition senators refuse to sit on ethics committee

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne. Jeff K Mayers

There was mild uproar in the Senate Chamber on Tuesday when the Opposition Bench declined to participate in a special select committee to consider and report on a code of ethical conduct and behaviour for senators.

Leader of Government Business Dr Amery Browne proposed the formation of the committee on the basis of on a motion approved in the Senate on July 6.

“I beg to move that a special select committee be established to consider and report on a code of ethical conduct and behaviour for senators by March 31, 2023, and that the following senators be appointed to serve on the committee: Christine Kangaloo, chairman; Paula Gopee-Scoon, member; Dr Muhammad Ibrahim, member; an opposition Senator as member; and Anthony Vieira, member.”

After Senate President Christine Kangaloo read the motion, the Senate approved it, but Opposition Senator Wade Mark said,

“Madam President, may I just inform you and put on the record that the Opposition bench will not be participating in this special select committee, so that this name of ‘opposition member’ being announced – I just want to let you know that we will not be participating in this committee.”

Browne respondedd, “Oh, dear.”

The July 6 motion, brought by Senator Anthony Vieira, was titled Unparliamentary Conduct of Opposition Senators. He moved it in response to the behaviour of opposition senators at a meeting of the electoral college on October 21, 2021.

The motion read in part: “Opposition senators who were present at the meeting of the Electoral College on October 21, 2021 made abusive and malicious assertions; imputed false and improper motives, and cast negative reflections on the character and impartiality of all independent senators during said proceedings of the electoral college, and in the media; be it resolved that this Senate censure the unparliamentary conduct of said opposition senators who by threat or molestation have attempted to obstruct, impede, influence or interfere with said independent senators in the performance of their duties; and be it further resolved that a select committee be established to consider and report on a code of ethical conduct and behaviour for senators.”

The motion was debated in the Senate on November 23, 2021, and February 22, 2022, with 18 speakers taking part in the debate.