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#518248 - 10/13/16 10:53 AM Senate Select Committee Meets, Cannot Elect Chair
Marty Offline

The PUP has chosen to boycott the Senate Select Committee, calling it bogus.

But, with or without the opposition, the ball is rolling…and the Senate probe which everyone was calling for is underway – even if got off to a patchy start today.  That was the first meeting where the 5 committee members were supposed to select the chair for this Senate Committee.

Government has said that one of the 3 social partners must chair the committee, but the problem is that both the Labour Senator and the business Senator do not accept the present makeup of the committee – with two UDP Senators.

They also criticize the terms of reference included in Church Senator Ashley Rocke's motion at the last meeting.

Senator Rocke, who was ruthlessly criticized and called things such as  "traitor to the public", and "Government puppet", is not prepared to bring more heat on himself by taking up the chairmanship. So, today's meeting, in full view of the public, could not have any meaningful progress without a chairman.

Here's all 5 senators discussing among themselves the quandary that is the empty chairman seat:

Hon. Ashley Rocke - Church Senator
"All the backlash that I've experienced and even threat to my family I have decided that I will not be given myself to this position."

Hon. Aldo Salazar - UDP Senator
"We came here with the understanding that we did not wish to chair this committee and we wanted the chair to come from one of the social partners. Senator Lizarraga was not consulted as to his chairing because he's here on a protest."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"The overwhelming majority wanted us to participate. However they also gave us the mandate to seek to change the terms and the composition because they were not happy with the terms and the composition. So we want and that's why we're here today and that's why in earnest we're going to bring back a motion to seek to change the terms again and composition because those are the instructions and that's the sentiment of our community at this time."

Hon. Elena Smith - Labour/Civil Society Senator
"Because there's a meeting that the prime minister has requested with the NTUCB at which time the matter of the senate inquiry will also be discussed because that's one of the points on our agenda. Then I feel that I should at least give my organisation the chance to hear the prime minister out and see if there is going to be a change in position because I don't want to come here and accept a position and then have to return and say my organisation has made a change and so I have to now step down, I have to resign from that position. So for me while there is a position on certain matters already I think I prefer it is best for them to hear from the prime minister first since he has requested that meeting and make a decision and I go from there after that decision has been made. That when I say I decline or I accept it's based on all 10 of the unions under the NTUCB who have given that mandate to me."

Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett - UDP Senator
"The suggestion has always been that the chairmanship should come from the social partners whether it's the churches, labour or business community and that remains our position. However if it turns out when we meet next time that there can be no consensus among the social partners on the selection of a chairman we will have to proceed and government may have to assume it is not the preferred course that we would want to take but the work of this committee really needs to begin in earnest."

Business Senator Mark Lizarraga says that right now, the working plan of action is to try to bring a proposal to the Senate to amend the terms of reference of the Committee to restrict the Government's membership to only 1 Senator. This new proposal will also include a fix to what they see as the inadequacies of the investigative powers of the committee. When the press asked Senate President Lee Mark Chang if he would be prepared to entertain them, he made it clear that he is not. Here's what he had to say:

Hon. Lee Mark Chang - President, Senate
"We have done this process two times already and I do believe as president we cannot be in reverse all the time right and I hope that the second time the motion was brought to the Senate will be the final time it was brought to the Senate. We have deliberated with everybody, some people didn't get what they wanted, some got what they wanted right I think that's it. I don't wish to see a third motion brought to adjust this one that's here. We already did it the first time, did it a second time and now you're asking us to do it another third time? I just don't know where we stand on that yet but we'll have to discuss that and see how we move forward."

So, what about the criticism about the restricted ability of the Committee to call relevant persons named in the report to answer for their actions? Again, we put that question to the Government side, and here's what they had to say:

Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett - UDP Senator
"The committee has the authority to require the attendance before the committee of those ministers named by the auditor general in the special report and or any other minister of government not necessarily named; you understand that we are going outside even of the scope of ministers who are named in the report. So let me begin from the beginning - to require the attendance before the committee of those ministers named by the auditor general in the special report and or any other minister of government who may have information which may be relevant to the inquiry."

"It is also empowered to require the attendance before the committee of the director of immigration and nationality and all such current and former public officers in the ministry responsible for nationality, immigration and nationality pursuant standing order 72 and all of these people are required to produce all relevant papers and records of the ministry as may be necessary to conduct its inquiry and investigation. So there is no scope being made for anybody to not be called. As long as your name is in the report or in questioning there is an indication that you ought to also be called, you can be called. There is no leaving out of anybody as far as my understanding."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"The standing order gives the president of the Senate the authority to decide who can come. As a matter of fact we need his permission, we need his permission to call particular witnesses and certainly we do not envision that we will be calling persons outside of the scope of the constitution; that was never envisioned."

Hon. Lee Mark Chang - President, Senate
"I guess you guys are trying to think I am going to block this inquiry. It also says here in 17 subsections 3 except as is otherwise provided by the senate standing order or by special direction of the senate a select committee shall elect a chairman from among its members. So they will have for they say boss, da no me wa have the say right and I told you already if it was up to me and once it's in the standing orders and it's in the constitution and in the motion that was approved it will be done."

The Committee meets again next week Wednesday, October 19, at which time, another attempt to appoint a chair. As you heard, the two Government representatives said that they would very much want that chair to come from the social partner senators. If they still don't want to serve, then one of the 2 Government Senators will have to take up the position. We'll be there for next week's follow up meeting, and we'll show you how that one goes.

Channel 7


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#518410 - 10/20/16 10:37 AM Re: Senate Select Committee Meets, Cannot Elect Chair [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Senate Committee Names Chair, Finally

This morning at the National Assembly, the members of the Senate Select Committee held their second meeting in two weeks. They were trying to select a Senator who will chair the investigation into the special audits on the Immigration Department.

The Government was hoping that one of the 3 social partner senators would be prepared to lead the Committee, but Church Senator Ashley Rocke is refusing for security reasons, and both the labour and business senators, Elena Smith and Mark Lizarraga, have been instructed by their constituents to stand down from the leadership. They share the concerns of the PUP that the committee is not independent, and that the terms of reference does not sufficiently empower the Committee to do its job properly.

So, today, the Two UDP Senators showed up for the meeting, along with the Church Senator and the Labour Senator; Business Senator Lizarraga couldn't attend today for personal reasons. After those who showed up indicated their continued refusal of the chairmanship, UDP Senator Aldo Salazar was forced to take up the position. Here is that moment in the meeting when he was nominated by UDP Senator Dr. Carla Barnett and seconded by Senator Rocke:

Hon. Lee Mark Chang - President, Senate
"First of all we would like to elect our chairman and anybody has any suggestions?"

Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett - UDP Senator
"I would like to nominate Senator Aldo Salazar as the chairman of the Senate select committee."

Hon. Lee Mark Chang - President, Senate
"Can we get a second?"

Hon. Ashley Rocke - Church Senator
"I second."

Hon. Lee Mark Chang - President, Senate
"Senator Rocke you second it. Okay then anybody else? Okay well congratulations Senator Salazar you are our new public committee select chairman. I will relieve myself and you can sit in the chair also."

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"As the president said congratulations, I don't know if that's congratulations on accepting a lot of work; as we want to dispatch this business and very quickly and efficiently, I'm proud to serve as the chairman of this committee. As we said previously our intention as Senators appointed by the government was not to take the chair; not because we were reluctant to do so, for any personal reason but because we wanted to afford to differ to those other persons other bodies represented in the Senate to take the chair. Having said that I've pointed out on the last occasion that we met that the chair does not have a vote unless there is an inequality of votes. As the present membership exists they shouldn't be an inequality of votes unless somebody abstains then they would be an inequality and the chairman will have a casting vote to break the tie."

So, with this appointment, the Senate can start to conduct its business post haste. We'll tell you what their timetable looks like shortly, but first, when Chairman Aldo Salazar took some questions, we asked him about his resolve to properly investigate the Government which he represents in the senate.

Here's what he said:

Daniel Ortiz
"You're two parties down in terms of the Senate representation. You have the opposition that is sitting out and informal indications are that the business Senator will sit out. Do you all foresee any difficulties?"

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"We don't foresee any difficulties at all. Our duty is to investigate that which the Senate has appointed us to do in the terms of reference whether they participate or not is not going to detract from my execution of my duties as chairman and as a member of the committee."

Daniel Ortiz
"There are some concerns that this outcome that we are here today at where you are, the chairman of this committee may have been a calculated move, a chess game calculated move to get you to this point."

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"I'm not a conspiracy theorist so it's difficult for me to contemplate those elaborate schemes. Certainly I wasn't a part of it and I would have been a part of it for it to end up here. But to address the matter a bit more seriously you said that in an atmosphere of suspicion let's accept for a moment that is true; I think you're presence here; the presence of at least 7 cameras I can count at this moment should alleviate any suspicion. We're conducting the business in public, not only in public but in front of what I would expect to be live broadcast."

Daniel Ortiz
"Can we get a categorical statement from you that in the conducting of leadership of this committee you're sense of justice will not be diminished when it comes to the political stock you come from."

Hon. Aldo Salazar - Chairman, Senate Select Committee
"What I can say is that I will discharge my duties fairly to everyone. The fact that I'm a Senator, a government appointed Senator does not, should not detract from that and I can say that definitely when it comes to the discharge of duties here in committee will do so without prejudice."

And, the new Chairman and his committee members are ready to hit the ground running. They have already approved the submission of a budget to finance these hearings which will go to the Ministry of Finance. The public hearing will commence on Wednesday, November 9, and they will call the Auditor General, and her support staff to give evidence. They will then call the  CEO, the Directors, the Minister of Immigration, the Minister of State responsible for Immigration and Nationality.

PUP Will Join Senate Probe – Hopes to Carry Majority

And after boycotting the first two meetings, the PUP today announced that it will be joining the committee full force.  And why is that? Well, it has become clear that the social partners and the opposition could control the majority vote!  Briceno gave the party's position today:….

Hon. John Briceno - PUP Party Leader
"We early have decided that we were not going to participate; but now that we have been informed by the other Senators in the social partners and by the clerk of the national assembly that the chairperson of that special senate select committee does not have a vote. Aldo Salazar has been elected as the chair, our party decided this morning that it is very important for us to participate again provided the other two senators from the social partners be the unions and the private sector participate. So we are going to be participating, I am going to be meeting with the three senators for us to decide who is going to represent us in that committee. But we're also appealing to the government and to the senate that we still believe that this senate select committee must have an adequate budget so that they can do the work properly."

"We also believe and we're going to hold the president of the senate to his word that the senate, this special senate select committee should be allowed to call in any and every and all witnesses that they think would be important to their investigation and move away from this nonsense that you can only call the people are in that report. What is more important? Us to decide just because you don't want to give into these two points we're not going to participate or should we at least give the process a chance."

"I think they did not do their homework properly because they thought the chair would have the casting vote so then they would have a majority but somehow somebody messed up and when they checked the standing orders of the senate it was and it was confirmed by the clerk of the national assembly that the chair does not have a vote, he will only have a casting vote. So in this case there are only 5 people that are voting, so Senator Rocke could vote as much as he wants with the government and if the other two social partners work along with our senator to do the right thing because it's not a matter that we want to go and hurt anyone but to be able to ask the right questions, to bring the right people in front of the senate to ask the proper questions so we could get to the bottom of it and that at the end of the day the senate can make the right set of recommendation."

Channel 7


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