Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Need for Political Atonement

Embroiled in a political quagmire largely of its own making, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)  has once again shot itself; this time not in the foot , but in the upper reaches of its political groin. Although injured it requires substantial amounts of testicular fortitude for it to surmount the challenges on the rocky road to an election victory.

There is need for a concerted attempt at establishing  a degree of party unity needed to convince the electorate that is it is credible alternate government . In sum, given the chance a JLP administration would be faithful to our Constitution, adhere to  the Rule of Law, and act with transparency, integrity and accountability in endeavours to improve the lot of the Jamaican people.

We would suggest that any strategy adopted by the JLP must be designed to  re-establishing  (a) the paramountcy of the Constitution,  (b) the adherence to the Rule Of Law and (c)  public confidence and trust in Andrew Holness as JLP Leader.

 Clearly a public wrong has been committed by the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the JLP. There is a political price to be paid. There is need for political atonement.

(a) The Constitution:

The Supreme Court has found that Andrew Holness, as Leader of the Opposition, had acted contrary to the Constitution, contrary to public policy and unlawfully. Having been made so aware by a declaratory order, the Leader of the Opposition and Leader, JLP need not wait for  court  injunctions to institute "corrective " measures and do the right thing ---- namely, act consistently with the Constitution,  in harmony with public policy and lawfully.

  •  There is the view that a constitutionally reconized office- holder, sworn to uphold the Constitution, ought not to continue in the office  when a Court of law has found that the office- holder had acted unconstitutionally and unlawfully.
  • The argument is limited to his position as Opposition Leader and no way pertains to his position as Leader, Jamaica Labour Party.
  • The person to occupy the office of the Leader of Opposition is the prerogative of the MPs supporting the the JLP. Usually, they would caucus and communicate their decision to the Governor- General. Although not constitutionally bound to accept their decision, it is the convention that the GG acts accordingly..
  • Thus Andrew Holness could resign as Opposition Leader and still maintain his seat in Parliament, the shadow portfolio responsibilities and position as Leader, JLP.
(b) The Rule of Law:

Andrew Holness has to demonstrate his unwavering adherence to the Rule of Law. As such he has to respect the rulings, findings , declarations  emanating out of the judicial process. That process allows him to disagree formally by lodging and pursuing an appeal. The judgement, ruling, declarations stand; until and unless a court orders otherwise.
  • In the circumstances Holness should formally appeal the matter to the Court of Appeal which is the final arbiter in matters concerning the membership/vacancy in the Senate.
  • It would be in keeping with guidelines of good governance if he removes himself from the affected position pending the outcome of the appeal.
(c) Public confidence and trust:

The building of public confidence and trust is the result of a plethora of factors in the public behaviour of the Leader JLP. Such is affected by the public perception of unity within the JLP. In short, credible attempts have to be made to coalesce all "labourities" in a coordinated strategy to gain electoral
victory. The 'revised' Senate arrangements  will last only until the next General Elections--expected within 22 months.
Here are some suggestions which flow directly from the "regrettable embarrassment":
  • Attempts should be made to to appease the "vindicated" without Williams resuming his seat in the Senate. Should Williams insists on taking his seat, then it may be tactical to reappoint him as Leader of Opposition Business (a disgruntled opposition Senator  may be tempted to  cast that historic vote required for passage of the CCJ Bill) ;
  • The JLP should seriously consider the appointment of a fresh slate of Senators, excluding the ones who had signed the flawed letters; [See next post "Crafting a Political Play"]
  • Efforts should be made to reintegrate Chris Tufton ( the other Senator who was unconstitutionally removed) into the party hierarchy--possibly as a main spokesman in the  Council of Spokespersons and being made an electoral candidate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And how are those suggestions possibly going to be done? After all it is not the JLP that appoints Senators, but the Governor-General on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, which is a position distinct from leader of the JLP. There has been too much of this kind of casual talk about this situation lately. Faaaar too many comments about Holness having to reappoint Tufton and Williams or remove Reid and Clarke. BUT Holness as either Leader of the Opposition or JLP Leader can do neither of these things as the court just ruled. He can only advise the Governor-General on the appointment of 8 senators. Additionally he isn't involved in whether Reid and Clarke go or whether Williams and Tufton return, because according to the court they had not in law or in fact left the Senate in the first place and hence Reid and Clarke are not legally Senators and never were.

Appointing a slate of fresh senators, excluding those who had signed the flawed letters (which is basically all of the legally current senators including Tufton and Williams)would first require that ALL the current opposition Senators willingly resign. Good luck getting that done since they have now been told that only THEY can determine when the resign (which is what they should have known in the first place, but then when you are greedy for power you do stupid things...). They should all resign on principle, but as we have seen from this episode, principle is something none of them have since if they did they would have never signed such letters in the first place....