Andrew Holness, Leader of the Opposition and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has some serious questions and issues to consider going forward following the decision last week in Jamaica’s Supreme Court. And he needs to move fast.
Now that 3 judges in the Supreme Court ruled the actions by Holness to force through the resignations of his Senators (in Jamaica’s Upper House) in 2013- was “unlawful, unconstitutional and invaild” what next for the JLP?
Holness had used these “form of resignation letters” to remove of Christpher Tufton and Arthur Williams and they were replaced by Ruel Reid and Nigel Clarke. Williams – who as Holness’ Chief of Staff drafted these letters – decided to challenge Holness’ actions in the courts.
Paragraphs 12, 105 , 106, 172 & 179 of the judges’ ruling stand out for me.
“ The defendant (Holness) refuted this claim that the standard form letters of resignation were created for the specific purpose to ensure compliance with the Opposition party’s official position on the CCJ. He contended that the letters were drafted for a general purpose. It was to give him a wide discretion as Leader of the Opposition to choose or nominate candidates for appointment which the Constitution obliged him to make.
 After the leadership election was completed, he (Williams) met with the defendant (Holness) on 12 November 2013 and explained to him his reasons for staying out of the leadership race. The reason he gave to the defendant was that he had worked closely with both the defendant and Mr. Audley Shaw. The defendant (Holness) responded by saying that at the time, those who did not support him would have to make way for those who supported, that those who did not support could be considered in the future, and that some have to get back to work in their constituencies. He then advised the defendant of his position that he would not resign and also that Dr. Tufton had advised him that he, too, was not resigning.
 The defendant (Holness) told him to bear in mind that he had a document that he could use and that he should have discussions with Dr. Tufton again and then to advise him (the defendant) of the decision made by Dr. Tufton and him. Later that evening, he saw a television clip of the defendant saying that he was not interested in individual resignation of Senators but an en bloc resignation of all Opposition Senators, as a matter of principle.
 It would follow, then, that the defendant, as Leader of the Opposition, had no power under the Constitution to remove or to recommend the removal of an Opposition Senator from the Senate. Therefore, the Governor General would not have had the power, express or implied, to remove the claimant on the advice of the defendant or at his behest, which in effect, was what transpired in the circumstances of this case.
 I find too that the use of the said letters by the defendant to remove the claimant from the Senate is inconsistent with the Constitution and, as such, is unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.”
- Should Holness resign or offer to resign as leader of the JLP?
- Should Holness apologise to Ruel Reid and Nigel Clarke for the embarassment he caused them?
- Given Arthur Williams’ culpability in drafting those invalid letters should he resign from the Senate?
- Should all the JLP Senators who had also signed those resignation letters but were reappointed [incl. Tom Tavares Finson, Kamina Johnson-Smith & Marlene Malahoo-Forte] all apologise to parliament?
- Can Holness attack the governing PNP government with any credibility, conviction or command with this judgement hanging over his head? With local govt elections looming.
- Will the JLP continue to allow Jamaica to be a mostly democratic one party state?
- Should the Senate be simply an elected upper house?
Tufton and Williams are now likely to return to the Senate to replace Reid and Clarke when the Senate sits tomorrow.
The irony of it all is that both Ruel Reid (Principal of Jamaica College) and Nigel Clarke (Deputy Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of the Musson Group) are highly respected figures in Jamaica. The kind of Jamaicans who are needed in today’s politics.