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Separation of powers limits Senate debate on stevedores’ appropriation

Posted: Saturday, March 19, 2022. 11:27 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The stevedores will “officially” get their $1.5 million from the Government after the General Revenue Supplementary Appropriation Bill #4 was passed in Friday’s meeting.

But the courts will decide ultimately whether the Government’s course was correct, and so Senate President Carolyn Trench-Sandiford reiterated the strictures of parliamentary privilege, warning that Senators’ comments on the bill cannot in any way help or prejudice the case of the litigants before the Supreme Court.

Lead Opposition Senator Michael Peyrefitte started out by calling for an apology for the attitude of the Government in the debate of the third appropriation bills, damning the Opposition as “lawbreakers” and so on. After an admonishment from the President, he argued, that “It’s all related because they’re doing here exactly what they criticized us for….What they’re doing here, is coming to the Honorable Senate to provide for monies that have already been pledged.’

After a further reminder of the stricture of the debate, the former Speaker of the House averred that “If the government was so sensitive about the pronouncements in parliament concerning this appropriation, then maybe they should not have brought it. Since they want to respect the court so much and respect the process so much, then delay this until the court has completed its process, if you really care. The government has no business paying out money to 1 of 2 parties in a private dispute.”

While “nobody in their right mind” would oppose the gesture, Peyrefitte allowed, the rules should apply to others equally: “Why not give other sectors of society money? Why not give back public servants their 10 [percent]? Why are you getting involved in private affairs?”

Elena Smith, the Senator representing Labour Unions and the Civil Society Steering Committee, explained that her constituents believe the stevedores deserve the money: “I believe that maybe when there was the thought of privatization of the Port, we probably weren’t thinking this far, and we weren’t expecting some of… we didn’t look far down the road, and so, we’re here now, to approve 1.5 million. And while some may say that’s a lot, a huge amount, it may not be deserving, we believe that it is more than deserving because it will not cover what these stevedores will have to endure going forward. And so, I listened, Madam President, just a bit to what was said in the House, and I know that there were concerns when the matter was raised of it was the government abiding by the Finance and Audit Reform Act. As unions that have always worked to ensure that government is accountable and that the government does what is right, despite the fact we support, we have to remind the government that it ought to ensure that it abides by these acts, and do things when they’re supposed to be done, and not have to come after the fact. I believe that as trade unions, the work that we have been doing – as I said, while we certainly approve, and we support, we have to make that reminder.”


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