Opposition senators walk out during SOE debate over alleged remark

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Several Opposition Senators walked out during a contentious debate on a motion to extend the states of emergency (SOEs) that were declared for seven parishes on November 15 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Both Senator Lambert Brown and Senator Donna Scott-Mottley walked out after Brown accused Government Senator Aubyn Hill of allegedly describing Opposition senators as “supporting criminals”.

Brown made the accusation as Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Peter Bunting, wrapped up his contribution to the debate. 

It was clear from Bunting’s line of argument that, like Opposition Leader Mark Golding in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, he would not be supporting an extension of the security measure.

The Government was able to use its supermajority in the House on Tuesday to approve the extension, however, it is doomed to fail in the Senate if one Opposition senator does not break ranks and vote yes for the required two-thirds majority to be achieved.

After demanding that Hill withdraw the alleged statement, Brown declared that he would not remain in the chamber until and unless he did so. Hill, in defending himself, argued that he made sotto voce remarks and directed no such comments at Opposition members.

Brown countered, stating that they were not sotto voce remarks but comments that were heard clearly. His Opposition colleague, Senator Scott-Mottley joined him in urging Hill to withdraw the statement, but once more, Hill denied that he said any such thing.

Opposition Senator Sophia Frazer Binns got into a back-and-forth with Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson, as she, too, demanded that Hill withdraw the offensive remark.

On some prodding from Tavares-Finson, Hill rose to his feet and withdrew while still denying that he had characterized Opposition senators as supporters of criminals.

He said he was withdrawing in the interest of peace, and because the debate was an important one.

Brown and Scott-Mottley eventually returned to the chamber as the debate had continued in their absence.

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