Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Holness traitor to Constitution

Published:Sunday | March 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Constitution of Jamaica was tabled in Parliament in July 1962. It sprang to life on August 6, 1962. It has remained largely as crafted with one major exception.

As the supreme law of the land, endowed with all our collective and singular rights, freedoms, obligations and duties, it holds a place of national significance. In a democracy, the Constitution prescribes the interaction between the governed and the governors. It is rooted in the principles that we are a nation of laws and that we, the people, are governed by the few, with our consent. Their relationship is born of mutual respect and trust. Fracture these at your peril.

The Constitution of Jamaica sets out certain offices worthy of high honour. The prime minister, governor general, chief justice, leader of the Opposition, among others. We give deference to the holders of these offices in our country. We treat them with respect. We choose carefully in the selection of these office holders.

When they ascend to these offices, they are required to swear or affirm to uphold the Constitution. Implicit in this is also a pledge not to defile the office. Any act that brings the office into disrepute is an affront to the nation. The breach of the Constitution is not swaddled in exculpatory language. Not all breaches are of equal severity, but any breach is defecating on the people.

If we are a country governed by the rule of law, what must we say to Andrew Michael Holness, holder of the constitutional office of leader of the Opposition in the Parliament? What must we say to those who would provide succour and comfort to this person whom the courts have said acted unlawfully in breaching our Constitution?

 

besoiled people

 

Since those who give him succour would be members of his 'organisation', they are not the subjects of the constitutional crisis. They can make him president for life, never to be challenged. Build statues of him at Belmont Road. He besoiled my Constitution and, by extension, we the people.

There are reports that since he was recently given a mandate by the

delegates of the JLP and a vote of confidence in the Lower House, he is secure. Rubbish!

No one would challenge his right to hold office, lead and champion the JLP; however, the Constitution of Jamaica does not recognise a political party. When they seek, as a party, a mandate to govern the country, the people will respond as they think best. While he holds the title leader of the Opposition, he is answerable to us, all of us, as Jamaicans.

It is imperative that we debate the appropriate level of attrition for Andrew Michael Holness. This matter is not bound by extremes. If and when he demits this office, it may not have to be for perpetuity. He must serve some penalty for the unlawful acts he has committed against us.

Consider for a moment if he never accepts sanction for his unlawful acts. Would you want him to be the holder of the office of the prime minister? Remember now, he is displaying his true colours. The Constitution means nothing to him. It is not even an inconvenient bump for him on the road to getting state power. Heaven help us all if he should be successful at the polls. Relinquishing state power once attained may never be acceptable. Welcome, despot.

There is no confidence in Andrew Michael Holness at this time. We should not be led by him or defer to his judgement until he acts out of contrition and accepts a penalty for the breach of our Jamaican Constitution. He has a weak moral underpinning. This makes him dangerous with more power. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Do we need to sit back and say, 'Ah nuh nutten dat' and leave him to his shenanigans?

 

legal non-starter

 

Those lacking mature legal counsel are now proposing that he take this to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This is a legal non-starter.

The Jamaican Constitution, in Section 41, states the methods by which a parliamentarian of both the Upper and Lower House SHALL (my emphasis) have their seat become vacant. In the matter at hand, the two senators have not been encased in any provision of Section 41. The Constitution, in Section 44, states as follows: Par. 44(1) "Any question whether - (a) any person has been validly elected or appointed as a member of either House; or (b) any member of either House has vacated his(her) seat therein or is required under the provisions of Section 41 ... SHALL (my emphasis) be determined by the Supreme Court, or appeal by the Court of Appeal whose decision SHALL BE FINAL (my emphasis)."

In this case, the matter has been heard in the Supreme Court.

Andrew Michael Holness did not find favour with the court. The matter was appealed to the Court of Appeal. Again, Andrew Michael Holness did not find favour. This SHALL BE FINAL. What part of this does Andrew Michael Holness not understand? The delegates only affect the JLP and not the citizens as a whole of Jamaica. You can continue to lead the JLP and just resign as the Leader of the Opposition. The appeals are done. Your alleged religious affiliation has a strong moral underpinning. Rely on it. Do the right thing.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law/mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.