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Editorial: Losing faith in Holness

Published:Thursday | May 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Listen to Mr Holness closely and you can discern no sound intellectual and/or practical reason for opposition to the court.

We cling desperately in hope for Andrew Holness' leadership - that it has the capacity and will for big, transformative ideas and accomplishments. Or even middling ones.

That dream, though, is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, evidenced most recently by his - and the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) - handling of the proposed amendment to the Constitution, on which the Lower House voted on Tuesday, to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Jamaica's court of last resort.

The requisite bills passed with the required two-thirds majority, which the governing People's National Party (PNP) could muster without the support of Mr Holness' JLP. The Government, however, is likely to falter in the Senate, whose composition will require at least one JLP member to break ranks and vote with the Government for them to pass.

Listen to Mr Holness closely and you can discern no sound intellectual and/or practical reason for opposition to the court, whose creation his party used to support, until the JLP's former leader and Mr Holness' early mentor, Edward Seaga, found political expedience to be against it. So, Mr Holness' insistence on an unconditional referendum on Jamaica's subscription to the CCJ's civil and criminal jurisdiction and his fanning of a residual anti-regional sentiment in his party is, to lay it bare, a raw political manoeuvre to deny his political opponents any perception or presumption of victory on a significant policy issue.

It matters little to Mr Holness and his party that by staying out of the CCJ - except in its original jurisdiction as interpreter of the treaty under which the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) operates - it prolongs the very limited access ordinary Jamaicans enjoy at their final court, Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, unless they are murderers who appeal their convictions, in which event, their cases may be handled by English lawyers free of charge.

It is the old politics of expedience.




There was reasonable expectation that Bruce Golding's reasoned and rational intervention in the CCJ debate would have tempered the posture of his successor as JLP leader, and provide the cover under which the Opposition would feel itself capable of legitimately negotiating with the Government on the issues. It has emerged that Mr Holness may have rejected, without counterproposals, suggestions placed before him by the Government. But it is not only his handling of the CCJ affair that diminishes optimism in Mr Holness' leadership.

More fundamental is his failure, thus far, to imbue the JLP with a sense of renewal and set it on a path with clear policy objectives. People have an idea what the JLP is against - which is government policies - but not what it stands for.

For instance, many months ago, Mr Holness convened a task force to fashion an economic programme, the outcome of which the public has not been told. What passes for economic policy by the Opposition is sniping at successes under the Government's agreement with the International Monetary Fund and gloating at perceived failures. The absence of policy cohesion is not only on the economy, but on all sectors.

Mr Holness may have been distracted by Audley Shaw's challenge to his leadership two years ago and the court battle over his use of predated letters to remove JLP senators. But among the skills of effective leaders is being able to operate on multiple fronts at the same time.