Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Johnson Smith was out of order

Published:Tuesday | November 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM


I was very disappointed in Kamina Johnson Smith, someone I've admired. Her recent comments in Parliament directed at Opposition Senator Dr Floyd Morris were offensive. Johnson Smith now says she was misquoted, but having watched the video of the interaction, she said exactly what was published.

According to the Gleaner report, the Government presented 23 pages of amendments to the National Identification and Registration Act. Senator Morris (who is visually impaired) requested an adjournment so that he could have enough time to review the amendments, which he also said he received late.

Minister Johnson Smith, the leader of government business in the Senate, might've been taken out of context, but it wasn't just what was said, it was also the tone that many found inappropriate and condescending. Johnson Smith said, "... [A]nd they are not complicated, and Senator Morris, you know (sic), having recently completed your PhD and having also written your autobiography, I hesitate to think that it would be too much to ask to work further."


Clarification of context


Although Johnson Smith clarified the context of her remarks and that she immediately withdrew them and apologised, she did so only after the Opposition expressed outrage! I'm sure she understands now why many were offended.

It is also unclear why the Government is in such a haste to get this particular ID bill passed, when individuals and other interest groups have voiced concerns about the bill, especially concerning matters of privacy and the haste in which it is being tabled without proper debate.

I agree with Opposition that a period of public consultation should take place prior to tabling this bill. Why wasn't there a full debate to get it right? This style of governance has elements of authoritarianism, and talking down to people (who may disagree), and this should be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand.

The Opposition also has a responsibility on behalf of citizens to ensure that these bills and laws that affect all are fair, equitable, and right. They have an important voice in representational politics in any healthy democracy. It was this voice that led to the many subsequent amendments as many as 23 pages! It is for this reason they should not be just shut down.