Whiteman becomes Senate majority leader
LAST Friday Senator Burchell Whiteman, the minister of education, youth and culture, assumed the position of leader of government business in the upper house.
He literally moved into the seat vacated by his predecessor, Maxine Henry-Wilson, who left her position in the senate, after a decade there, to concentrate on political matters as general secretary of the People's National Party and a candidate in the next general elections.
During Friday's sitting of the senate, Floyd Morris, newly appointed state minister for labour and social security moved to a front row seat from his customary position on the third row.
"With everything else that I have got to face, it is a challenge. My colleague, Maxine Henry-Wilson set a very high standard. And, obviously, I have learnt a lot from her and hope to use what I have learnt to ensure that the efficiency of the senate is preserved," Whiteman told the Sunday Observer.
He noted that he wanted to preserve the tone of "reasonable camaraderie and goodwill" in the upper chamber and evade getting into too much "acrimonious debates".
But he indicated that he was "a little anxious" that the legislative agenda in the senate was lengthening and wanted to expedite the passage of legislation, but allowing proper time, due process, and the proper deliberation of issues.
"I think we need to step up the pace a little bit, and I am going to seek to do that," Whiteman said.
"I have a good working relationship with senator (Oswald) Harding (leader of Opposition business), not only from our days in the senate, but from before that. And I think that will be good for the work in the senate," Whiteman added.
Whiteman's colleagues from both sides of the upper house expressed support for his appointment.
Oswald Harding, minority Leader: "Mr Whiteman, of course, has been a minister in the other house and he has had the exposure in the senate. So we expect that he will perform very well. And he will have the co-operation of the Opposition.
"Of course I hope that he will be strong and tough enough to deal with his colleague ministers in another place (the House of Representatives), because they get very annoyed when we stop bills and turn them back.
"That is our function. This senate has been doing exactly what we were set there to do. And as long as he has the courage to stop debates when it is necessary, we won't have a problem."
Attorney General A J Nicholson: "Senator Whiteman is an urbane and knowledgeable public servant, coming as he does from the teaching profession and having himself come out of a family that has dealt with education for a long time during the past century. (He) is a fit and proper person to be the leader of the senate."
Government senator Aloun Assamba: "So far I see he is very organised in terms of making sure that we get the papers so that we know before hand what we are going to be dealing with.
"Whenever anybody starts something new it will take a little time for them to get comfortable in the role, but, so far, I think he is doing well."
Opposition senator, Anthony Johnson: "He certainly has a lot of experience in legislative matters and being a former teacher and a person who deals with a very large ministry he has a lot of experience. So he would certainly expect him to display equanimity and a knowledge of the wide ranging bills that come before us.
"(We expect him to) maintain the tradition (of) successive administrations -- using the senate as a chamber of review and using the opportunity for this second passage of bills through this house to improve them and give the Jamaican citizenry a better legislative architecture."