Senate leader resurrects ‘threatening e-mail issue

Government Senator Kamina Johnson Smith last Friday resurrected the 2014 drama surrounding e-mail threats she had claimed to have received from a colleague across the floor while she was on the Opposition benches.

Johnson Smith, who has been the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, since the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) victory in the general election in 2016, did not name the perpetrator.

But, reports on the meetings of the Senate in late 2014, noted an attempt by then Leader of Opposition Business, Senator Thomas Tavares-Finson, to get then Senate President Floyd Morris to allow the Opposition to raise the issue of the e-mail threats, as well as to ask then Leader of Government Business AJ Nicholson to apologise for using the adjective “flexi-rape” in the chamber.

Morris refused to allow a debate on the claims of e-mail threats, but insisted on Nicholson withdrawing his “flexi-rape” remark.

Nicholson was reprimanded for describing Opposition Senator and current Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte’s explanation of the need to limit working hours for women under the proposed flexi-work arrangements for fear of rape as “flexi-rape”.

When the then Opposition demanded an apology for the use of the term “flexi-rape”, Nicholson responded, “Man caah run a joke again? Naah withdraw nothing.” However, he eventually withdrew the statement.

But, the Opposition was not satisfied and wanted the Senate to also discuss the allegations by Johnson Smith that she had been receiving threatening e-mails, and wanted the issue discussed. Tavares-Finson said he wanted the president to address the concerns he had raised in a letter sent to him about the conduct of Nicholson.

Morris declared that he would not allow any discussions on the matter of the e-mails, and requested that Tavares-Finson take his seat. The matter was then laid to rest, but Johnson Smith brought renewed interest to the issue during last Friday’s sitting of the Upper House.

She said that she received e-mails from the perpetrator, who was a Cabinet minister at the time, threatening her.

According to Johnson Smith, she notified the police of the activity, and it was investigated and the name and information of the aggressor revealed to her. However, she said that she did not make the matter public, as she was concerned about the effect of the revelation at that time.

“I think about the fact that there was a member, a colleague of yours on that side (Opposition) who had started to send me harassing e-mails, who I had to report to the police. I was even advised [by the police] to stop running [in the mornings] for a period of time,” she revealed.

Johnson Smith said that the situation eventually reached the point, where the issue for her, was whether to issue a public charge.

“The police were clear that cyber-crime was being committed. It was clear that I was in fear, and they recognised it as justifiable, and I decided not to press charges. I decided not to go public with it either. And I struggled with it, because I said this could be helpful for women to see someone taking action when they feel vulnerable,” said Johnson Smith.

“If I felt vulnerable, imagine someone who did not have the kind of support that I do. Then I thought about the politics and the drama and I didn’t [report it], and I don’t consider myself a disempowered woman,” she added.

Senator Johnson Smith said that she made the disclosure now because she could not help but consider the victory that women in the Senate could have achieved during the sitting last Friday if the Government and Opposition senators had found common ground on how to approach misbehaviour in domestic relationships, as well as in the Parliament.

“I cannot help but think what a victory this could have been today had we all been able to come together. If we could be unified at the start, I think we would have had different day and we could have sent a different signal,” Johnson Smith concluded.

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