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Senate Committee Names Chair, Finally
posted (October 19, 2016)

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.

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