Members of the Senate representing the Opposition United Progressive Party were absent from yesterday’s sitting of the Upper House.
Senator Shawn Nicholas, who was on Observer’s Voice of the People programme explained that their absence was due to a request for senators to show proof of vaccination before entering Parliament.
“There is a decision which we are still trying to figure out where that decision came from, and the authority of the decision that all members of Parliament of both Houses are to present vaccination cards to be able to enter into the Parliament building,” Senator Nicholas recounted.
The Opposition Senator further detailed that Senator Damani Tabor approached the Parliament building to attend the sitting. However, he was not allowed entry since he did not produce his vaccination card.
“Our brother Damani Tabor, he was first this morning, and he approached the Parliament building, and he was told by the officers on duty that he could not enter. He questioned the basis, and they told him of the decision, because we cannot call it a policy; and he asked whether or not there was any change, and they said no and they could not allow him in. He then got in touch with the rest of us because we figured that if they did not allow him, we would not go through the same harassment as he would have done,” she said.
Senator Nicholas said that the Speaker of the House, Sir Gerald Watt, informed members of the decision, reportedly made by him last week, but Senators have now questioned his authority to make such a pronouncement.
“The Speaker of the House Sir Gerald Watt QC, he is in charge of the Lower House. The standing order, the general authority of the President, the standing order 91, ‘The President shall be responsible for the general direction and controls of the precincts of the Parliament’. We do not, when I say ‘we’, I am not being individualised here, the Senators do not take instructions from the Speaker of the House. In fact, when you look at the way Parliament is set up, the President of the Senate is of a higher rank than the Speaker of the House.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Alincia Williams-Grant addressed the absence of the Opposition at the start of the sitting, but said she would respond formally.
“I have received correspondence from members of the Opposition in relation to, I believe, why they are absent today. I am sure we will hear throughout the course of the day through the media, but it behooves me to respond directly to the correspondence, and I will do so and report it at the next meeting,” Williams-Grant said.