Sat | Dec 3, 2016

The strange Mr Holness

Published:Thursday | February 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Andrew Holness may yet prove to be a genius with rare political gifts. Right now, we doubt it. For in that department, at this time, he appears incompetent.

If a fortnight ago, in the immediate aftermath of the Constitutional Court's ruling that his use of pre-signed, undated resignation letters to oust two senators was unconstitutional, we would have fully understood his decision. He could have advanced the logic that the matter was too fundamental an issue of public policy, involving constitutional limits of executive authority and the exercise of individual freedoms, to be left to a first-instance court. At the same time, he would have extended himself and challenged his political skills in having his party, including the protagonists in the matter, appreciate this larger philosophical/governance issue he was seeking to resolve.

That was not Mr Holness' strategy. First, he huffed, drawing attention to the court's askance view of Arthur Williams, key conspirator in the scheme and author and victim of the letters, for which he sought and won redress. Then the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader became contrite and repentant. He went to church, confessed his sins and prayed forgiveness. It is unclear if he did penance.

"... Today, I do so unreservedly apologise to my colleagues," Mr Holness said before worshippers at a Sunday service at a Baptist church.

Mr Holness, in the circumstances, and as this newspaper believed and said, appeared to have formally buried the hatchet and foreclosed on any intention, if not right, to appeal. He would seek a political resolution to his party's problems - a healing if you will. Indeed, we urged that course of action, given the JLP's fragile state and its need to move beyond the distractions if it established itself as government-in-waiting. It was our view that actors in this latest episode of the party's epic tragedy - Mr Holness, Mr Williams and his fellow Senate 'oustee' Christopher Tufton and their replacements, Nigel Clarke and Ruel Reid - should gather in a backroom somewhere to thrash out the problem.

 

surprising move

 

As the leader against whom the court ruled, and in the context of his post-confessional mien, presuming it to be genuine, it was Mr Holness' obligation to work hardest at this bit of realpolitik. It is what he said he was doing.

Yet, in a sudden, surprising move, Mr Holness has changed tack, having filed an appeal against the lower court's decision. The higher courts - perhaps the matter may reach as far as the Privy Council - will have an opportunity to pronounce definitively on the constitutional right, or lack thereof, of prime ministers and opposition leaders to remove senators whose appointments they caused, as well as on the lower court's position that pre-signed letters, even with separate authorisation for their use, is not a method to be countenanced in resignations from the legislature. In the meantime, the chasms in this notoriously fractious and querulous party will widen.

A strange fellow, this Andrew Holness.