Jamaica's Senate resumed on Monday morning with an apology from Leader of Government Business Kamina Johnson Smith to Opposition Senator Floyd Morris, following her comments on Friday which resulted in public outcry.
Senator Morris, who is visually impaired, had expressed concern about the limited time he was given to peruse several pages of amendments to the National Identification and Registration Bill he received minutes before the start of the Senate. He had requested an adjournment of the Senate to facilitate his participation in the debate.
However, Senator Johnson Smith responded to his concerns by saying: "They (the documents) are not complicated and Senator Morris, having recently completed your PhD and having also written your autobiography, I hesitate to think that it would not be too much for us to work through.”
Following an outcry in the Senate, Johnson Smith withdrew the remarks, saying she meant no offense, but the comments still drew public criticism.
On Monday, Senator Johnson Smith reiterated that she meant no harm or disrespect by the statement.
"I wish to apologise wholeheartedly and sincerely for any and all distress or offense caused to Senator Morris by my comments...I meant absolutely no disrespect, I meant absolutely no offense, and I regret that the entire incident took place," she expressed.
Senator Morris received the apology, saying: "Senator Johnson Smith, now that you have recognised that you have been wrong in the statement or the comment and you have apologised, I sincerely accept your apologies."
In the meantime, Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson has given instructions for Senator Morris to receive documents on time and in the appropriate format.
This follows a meeting prior to the start of the Senate, which involved Senator Tavares-Finson and the leaders of government and opposition business, and followed the dispute over the Privilege Motion moved by Senator Morris on Friday.
The review of the National Identification and Registration Bill is now underway in the Senate.
Senator Morris has expressed concern with having disabled persons properly registered under the National Identification System.
He said he was fearful there would be issues having disabled persons registered under the new law.
The senator pointed out that there have been problems in the past having them registered on similar registries.
In her response, Leader of Government Business Kamina Johnson Smith stated that dialogue was ongoing with members of the disabled community to ensure issues preventing registration could be dealt with.
RJR News was outside Gordon House on Monday morning where it was expected that persons and groups opposed to the National Identification and Registration Bill would have gathered.
But the large crowds that were expected to gather outside George William Gordon House for Monday's emergency sitting of the Senate did not materialize.
Only the usual security personal could be seen outside the doors at minutes to 11 o'clock Monday morning.
Inside, a few persons, including entertainer Queen Ifrica as well as members of Jamaicans for Justice and the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society were seated in the galleries.
The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society had on Sunday called for persons to come out in their numbers to register their concern regarding aspects of the National Identification and Registration Bill.
Dr. Wayne West, Chairman of the Coalition, said the bill was intrusive and invasive. He urged the government to halt the passage of the bill so the concerns could be properly addressed and so citizens would be given more time to better understand what they were being asked to sign onto.