Sat | Mar 2, 2024

None so blind

Published:Monday | October 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMGordon Robinson, Contributor
Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte (left), with infamous handbag in tow, reacts after she was suspended from the Senate on Friday. Government senators Imani Duncan-Price (back turned) and Angela Brown Burke are also in the photo.
Senator A.J. Nicholson, seen here at Monday's press conference, where government members criticised Malahoo Forte in Lettergate Part 2.
Floyd Morris, Senate president, had Marlene Malahoo Forte suspended.

Friday's Senate sitting degenerated into a monumental farce.

Farcical elements abounded, but the one cornering headlines in a lazy, under-researched and mainly sensation-seeking media was the cruel and unusual suspension of Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte. When I attended kindergarten, one of the inflexible rules was that students wishing to visit the bathroom had to first raise their hands to seek permission. In order to avoid embarrassment from a lengthy Q&A intervening between raised hand and hurried exit, the requesting student had to put up one finger or two depending on the plan of action once the mission was accomplished.

I found this demeaning and unnecessary. By prep school, we developed ways to amuse ourselves with the system, the simplest of which was to lie with your fingers. Others were more creative and would use visits to that room to transmit coded messages or creative art. The best one I ever saw has become a staple through the decades;

Here I sit, broken-hearted.

I came to s**t but I only farted

Is this where the Senate has reached? That a female senator leaves the chamber after promising she'll search for/deliver a document mentioned in her address that the president asked her to produce, and she's hunted down in the bathroom for the purpose of being forcibly returned to her seat NOW? Really? Seriously?

Senator Marlene sent for her bag. So what? For all we know, IMF-imposed fiscal consolidation could have caused a toiletries shortage and she needed reinforcements from her bag, which every husband knows contains anything anybody will ever require, including spare auto parts. Maybe she decided to search at home or office, realising she has mislaid the document and it's not in the House. Again, so WHAT?

Worse, this brutish haste to bully and embarrass young Senator Marlene is done at the prompting mainly of A. J. Nicholson, who has already been forced to issue a public apology for disrespecting lady senators. Have he and co-prompter Mark Golding forgotten the PNP is led by a woman, who they wouldn't dare treat in this way in public?

I hope Senator Marlene gives as good as she has received by offering the president a 'paper' trail to prove her destination and activity. Hopefully, this will embarrass him into publicly apologising to the young senator.

But Friday's calamity was multi-farceited. The alleged Privy Council 'letter' that put the wind up government senators/president is really just what a cryptic crossword clue might call 'pink, salted spawn of North Atlantic fish found near coastlines'. Work it out. It's comic.

The letter is irrelevant to the debate but has exposed government senators' anxiety. Senator Marlene says the Privy Council wrote offering to come to Jamaica. She hasn't alleged acceptance. One thing is certain, for more than 300 years since Penn and Venables, on behalf of white Europeans everywhere, liberated Jamaica from armed-to-the-teeth marauding, terrorist Arawaks, Caribs (and the bloody Spanish), the Privy Council has NEVER visited Jamaica. In 10 years, even before Jamaica uses its appellate jurisdiction, CCJ has already sat here.


storm in a teacup

All the Senate president needed to do was make a quiet request for the document to ensure Senator Marlene wasn't misleading the Chamber (the central issue). Instead, he has created a storm in a teacup, which will allow the JLP to distract us from the central issues forever. But, PNP senators may not be as fool-fool as they appear because they, too, need this distraction.

On Friday, a bill was hurriedly passed amending the OUR Act to force the OUR, when determining utility rates, to take into account, among many political matters, "all policy directives issued by Cabinet with respect thereto". This will institutionalise rather than condemn Phillip Paulwell's 2001 attempt to interfere with the OUR's rate-setting, which was declared illegal by the Privy Council in 2010.

So, while myopic media quarrel endlessly about Floyd Morris' petulant suspension of Senator Marlene, it's outflanked by a more far-reaching constitutional attack. As far back as 1546, John Heywood coined (adapted really), "There are none so blind as those who will not see." Many attribute the quote to 17th-century English clergyman Matthew Henry, but it wasn't him. The origin of Heywood's adaptation is Jeremiah 5:21 ('Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not'). Heywood's full saying is: 'There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know."

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to