The Senate, which is also known as the Upper House of the Jamaican Parliament, has been in the news since the start of the week, following Opposition Leader Andrew Holness’ victory in the Jamaica Labour Party’s fractious internal leadership election on Sunday. Following Holness’ victory, the entire Shadow Cabinet tendered letters of resignation after his challenger, Audley Shaw, and six of his key supporters did the same. Five of the eight Opposition senators also resigned yesterday, in a bid to give Holness “a free hand” to choose the who sits in the Upper House from the JLP. The latest news is that senators Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams, who had previously refused to resign, have now done so.
In light of the current interest, we share some information on the history and composition of the Jamaican Senate this Fact Friday.
- The second chamber of the House of Representative, the Senate consists of 21 members – 13 from the governing party and eight from the Opposition.
- The function of the Senate as set out in the Jamaican Constitution is to review legislation passed in the House before it is signed into law by the governor general representing the Head of State, The Queen.
- The president of the Senate is the Hon. Floyd Morris. He is the first blind person to hold the office.
- The Senate was created in following the 1961-62 bi-partisan constitutional committee agreement between the Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante camps. Both men had been opposed to the idea of a Senate in the previous decade. The creation of the Senate removed British colonial representatives from the House, as this second chamber would be made up of Jamaicans nominated by the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition.
- In the 1990s, a constitutional commission recommendation was made to enlarge the Senate with space for independent members. This did not get off the ground, even though former Prime Minister PJ Patterson appointed two independent senators (Trevor Munroe and Douglas Orane) in 1997, true to the spirit of this recommendation. Opposition Leader Edward Seaga made no appointments, so the the experiment was aborted five years later.