Controversial Bill to Increase Number of Senators Passed by one Vote

Though the Leader of the Opposition and other members objected to the swearing in, in the National Assemnly, of the newly appointed Attorney General, Mr. Jason Hamilton, the Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Curtis Martin, allowed the legal official to take the required Oath that accepted him as a member of the National Assembly, thus eligible to vote on the matters before the parliament, stated the Speaker. Speaker Martin said that since Mr. Hamilton was duly sworn in as Attorney General, and given his instruments of appointment by the Governor General, Sir Edmund Lawrence, he becomes a member of the parliament and therefore should be allowed to enjoy all rights accorded such a member.

But the opposition objected, stating that because the Assembly was resuming from an adjournment where it was in the middle of official Business Matters, debating the Bill to increase the number of senators, it was not possible to interrupt those discussions (debates) to administer the oath to the new Attorney General. They argued that based on the rules governing parliaments when there is an adjournment on matters being discussed, the House shall continue with such debate, upon the resumption; and that no other business should be allowed as a new matter being placed on the Order Paper or the agenda of the session.

The Speaker however disagreed, and allowed the Oath to be taken by new Attorney General, Mr. Jason Hamilton. Though there was protestation from the opposition benches, the Speaker gave his ruling and insisted that the debate resumes. This phase saw presentations from MPs Glenn Phillip, Mark Brantley and Dr. Denzil Douglas. When the debate ended and the MPs moved to the voting stage after the lone amendment in the Committee stage, the vote was eventually taken.

Again opposition members objected when the Attorney General was allowed to cast his vote. again the Speaker insisted that he had such right and all efforts by the opposition to illustrate otherwise were disallowed by the Speaker, who stated he had already ruled on the matter of the installation in the Assembly of the Attorney General.

Opposition members requested, what is called, a “division” which simply is a request for each member to clearly state how they voted on the Bill. Those voting against the Bill included two members from the government benches; the first in the country’s history, since gaining independence in 1983.

The full vote was as follows:

In favour of the Bill

1. Dr. Denzil Douglas

2. Dr. Earl Asim Martin

3. Glenn Phillip

4. Richard Skerritt

5. Nigel Carty

6. Jason Hamilton

7. Marcella Liburd 

8. Patrice Nisbett

Voting against

1. Mark Brantley

2. Eugene Hamilton

3. Vance Amory

4. Shawn Richards

5. Vincent Byron Jr

6. Dr. Timothy Harris (from government benches)

7. Sam Condor (government benches and Deputy Prime Minister)

It was the first time in the history of the parliament that a division of votes was taken. It was therefore that extra vote by Mr. Hamilton that gave the government the majority of votes it needed to get through the Bill.




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