First Meeting of the Senate Special Select Committee; Chairperson Pending

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Updated: October 12, 2016

A chairperson is yet to be named for the Senate Special Select Committee, although it was hoped that that portion of the process would have been completed in this morning’s sitting. Government Senator, Aldo Salazar summed up the situation regarding the absence of a chairman for the committee.

ALDO SALAZAR

“From my understanding Senator Lizarraga is here under protest and I understand he will give his reasons for that. Myself and Dr.Barnett do not want to chair the committee, we feel that the chair should come from one of the social partners and we understood that Senator Lizarraga is here under protest so he wouldn’t be able to take the chair today. We then ask Pastor Rocke to take the chair and he declined and so Senator Smith she will then take the chair. They will give their reasons for doing so I suppose so I wanted to just address that as the reason why we cannot have an election of chairman at this time. Myself and Dr.Barnett do not want to take the chair. But if compelled to do so at some point in the order for the business of this committee to move forward we will have to do so.”

Senator for the private sector, Mark Lizarraga was present at today’s sitting but was there in an expression of protest to the composition of the Senate Special Select Committee.  He explained the rationale behind his protest.

MARK LIZARRAGA

“I think Senator Salazar is absolutely correct and I’ve expressed this to you that we are here today under protest of sorts to express our protest because of several things. First of all we requested by way of letter to yourself that the meeting of today be postponed until after our Special General Meeting with our membership tonight. As you know the chamber and specifically myself when this general meeting was called we did not know that the meeting was going to be called for the same day that we were going to have our special general meeting and never the less, as you know we are on record of having concerns that contrary to the standing orders the orders of the day were flopped. The motion that we intended to support became the second motion on the table instead of the first, that aside our fundamental issue remains with the terms and composition of this special select committee. As such the business community has sought to do a poll to get direction from its members the result of that poll came in and overwhelmingly pointed to us trying to renegotiate the terms and composition of this committee; that is one of the main purposes of our special general meeting this evening and hopefully the chamber will have arrived at some clear mandated direction after tonight’s session with our members as to the way forward. It is our intent at this time to come back at a next regular session of the senate to put again a motion to have amendments to the terms and composition.”

The Senator for the Churches, Pastor Ashley Rocke also rose explaining that based on the victimization and threats on he and his family, he would be reluctant to take up the seat.  While Senator for the Unions and Civil Society, Elena Smith explained that she would prefer to wait and see what the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting with the Prime Minister will be prior to accepting such a position.  As for the position of the Government’s representative to be the Chair, Dr Carla Barnett says she would rather it not be made that way.

DR CARLA BARNETT

“As Senator Salazar said earlier when we discussed it we agreed that in keeping with the approach that government had taken from the start that we would not want government to be in the chair of this committee, the suggestion has always been that the chairmanship should come from the social partners whether it’s the churches, labor or the business community and that remains our position. However it turns out when we meet next time that there can be no consensus among the social partners on the selection of a chairman we will have to proceed and government may have to assume. It is not the preferred course that we would want to take but the work of this committee really needs to begin in earnest. I recall the senate meeting when we considered the motions that we had two motions on the order paper, one from the churches and one from the opposition. We did not have a motion presented from labor and we did not have a motion presented by the business community.”

A second matter that arose in this morning’s first sitting of the Senate Special Select Committee was the issue of financing for the committee’s operations.  Dr Carla Barnett spoke on the issue which will be discussed in a closed session at a later time.

DR CARLA BARNETT

“When I came here this morning I suggested to the president and to the clerk that one business that we really needed to deal with as a matter of urgency was the funding for the work of this committee. That funding following the rules of the finance and audit act requires that we put a budget together, that that budget goes through the process of supplementary approval, its not a lot, it’s not going to be the amount that would require it to be presented to the house in advance but we do need in the Ministry of Finance since we are in the process of revising the budget to the end of the year to be in a position to allocate adequate for the work of this committee. So I have asked for there to be a discussion, it is in the remit of the clerk of the national assembly to determine the additional resources that he needs in order to ensure that there is adequate secretarial transcription support, recording support, legal and accounting support, whatever is required for the working of this committee and as we do business in government the approval would only be for the rest of this financial year because at the next financial year we will provide, if this committee is still operating would provide the resources for the next financial year so we want to be sure that we agree on that process for the clerk of the national assembly to be putting together the budget for the working committee so that those funds can be identified, set aside and the committee can be assured of adequate resources for its work.”

As it relates to the questioning of individuals as the Senate inquiry progresses, Dr Carla Barnett explained who can be called in for questioning into the investigation.

DR CARLA BARNETT

“The committee has the authority to require the attendance before the committee of those ministers named by the auditor general in this special report and or any other minister of government not necessarily named, you understand that we are going even outside of the scope of Ministers who are named in the report. So let me begin from the beginning; to require the attendance before the committee of those Ministers named by the auditor general in the special report and or any other Minister of Government who may have information which may be relevant to the inquiry. This is terms of reference 1E. if you look at that you will see that set out there. It is also empowered to require the attendance before the committee of the director of immigration and nationality and all such current and former public officers in the Ministry responsible for nationality, immigration pursuant to standing order 72 and all of these people are required to produce all relevant papers and records of the Ministry as may be necessary to conduct its inquiry and investigation. So there is no scope being made for anybody to not be called as long as your name is in the report or in questioning there is an indication that you ought to also be called you can be called there is no leaving out of anybody sa far as my understanding. I could ask the lawyer, these things are legal.”

The sitting ended just before midday and is slated to meet again on October 19.