Tuesday, 18 January 2011 11:36
By SA Dixon
Two opposing members repeatedly clashed during Monday's sitting of the senate, with one being asked to leave the Chamber to cool off. Government Senator Joanne Massiah later admitted that she had become quite "agitated," apologised to Senate President Hazelyn Francis, and thanked her for the time to cool off.
The source of her ire was opposition senator Gail Christian's presentation, which followed Leader of Government Business Dr Errol Cort.
Massiah had repeatedly interrupted Christian before her forced departure, and later had the chance to continue her criticism during her turn to speak.
During what she called "a few footnotes" at the beginning of her presentation, she repeatedly noted that despite high aspirations, a leopard cannot change its spots, nor a zebra its stripes.
She said she was disappointed to hear Christian admit she had not received a copy of the budget statement, and had not gone through it.
Massiah asked, "How can you come to the Parliament to debate the budget and not read the budget statements? ... I would think that as Parliamentarians, if you have a genuine interest in the development of your country, and you don't get a document as critical as the budget statement ... and you don't make any inquiries... Madame President then you can't be a serious Parliamentarian."
She said she would have sought a copy of the document if she had not received it, and added, "If I had not read the budget statement, I would not come here and talk about it."
She then called it a shame that Christian had taken her seat without echoing Dr Cort's call for an end to the verbal attacks on Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack.
Massiah predicted that that very night, the undesirable behaviour that had been described would continue "on a particular radio station".
She called on Christian to use that same radio station to make a public statement of her disapproval of such comments.
"For her not to stand up in defense, as a woman, of another woman, moreso the occupier of the high office of governor general, is shameful," Massiah said. "And I not going stop say so until I hear Senator Christian come out and say so."
As far as being asked to leave the debate, she said, "I appreciated the invitation to cool off. It got me to clear my head."
In closing, she took another swipe across the aisle. "I wish to say again, that I am expecting all the women in this country, particularly those who hold positions of leadership in political parties, those who aspire to high office, those who are shadowing all kinds of ministers, to say loud and clear and unequivocal, that they condemn the vicious, vile, and unwarranted acts on the office of the governor general and on the governor general herself," Massiah said. "Lead by example, talk the talk and walk the walk."
Christian, early in her presentation, had said, "If ever there was a time, in my view, to back down from the animosity rooted in political differences, it is now."
She also, after praising the new Mount St John Medical Centre, criticized the government for not showing enough concern following an incident where a child was nearly killed at the King George V playing field.
This brought government senator Malaka Parker to her feet, on a point of order.
"I think she needs to be enlightened." Parker said. "I don't think you have all the information," she told Christian. Parker then said it was not true that the prime minister had not spoken to the family since the incident.
Christian then rose on her own point of order, noting that was not what she had said. She clarified that other than Parker, none of the authorities connected to the playing field had intervened.
Senator Anthony Stuart then rose to dispute this, and said the president of the King George Restoration Society had been involved with the parents from day one, and are still involved.
Christian challenged him to provide specifics, then said she was not going to take him to task, since she had visited the child every day, and spoke to the parents daily.
Touching another topic, the opposition senator, who is also an attorney, called for stronger enforcement of the Maintenance of and Access to Children Act.
She said that while a separate account had been set up to facilitate payments, "The Act isn't working. Warrants are still not being executed. Orders are being made, but warrants are still not being executed. Would you believe me, that for the better part of 2010, we tried to get a warrant for 20 something thousand dollars in arrears executed?"
Christian said, "The issue is not the account. The issue is getting money into the account."
An earlier comment from Christian had prompted Senate President Hazelyn Francis to respond, "That's why I'm proud of all the females in here. Alyou smart like what."