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Editorial: Come clean, Mrs Malahoo Forte

Published:Tuesday | November 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Both Arthur Williams and Marlene Malahoo Forte can't be telling the truth. One of them is lying about who knew what, and when, about the signing of those now infamous, undated resignation letters.

Veracity, until otherwise can be established, seems to stand firmer on the side of Mr Williams. He has signed affidavits and made statements on oath, for which lying would properly have opened him to the risks and penalties of perjury. Mrs Malahoo Forte has merely made assertions suggesting that her signing of a letter of resignation at the time of her appointment to the Senate was unforced and not requested, probably as an act of generosity to Andrew Holness, the leader of the Opposition and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

The letters are of considerable constitutional significance, having caused clarification of the tenure of members of the appointed Upper House of the Jamaican Parliament and the procedure for resignation there from.

Audley Shaw challenge

This became an issue two years ago after Mr Holness defeated Audley Shaw in a challenge to his leadership of the JLP.

In the aftermath of his victory, Mr Holness demanded the resignation of the eight senators he had previously appointed, apparently to give him a free hand on whose support he could count.

Mrs Malahoo Forte and five others complied. Mr Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton resisted, on the grounds, not that their appointments were for the life of the Parliament, but that Mr Holness was acting in bad faith by seeking to remove persons whom he believed had not supported him in the election, as was openly the case with Dr Tufton.

Mr Holness then employed his nuclear option - the pre-signed resignation letters, of which, it turned out, Mr Williams was a key architect. But the letters, Mr Williams said, were only to be used in the event of JLP senators breaking ranks and voting in support of Jamaica's accession to the criminal and civil jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the absence of a referendum. The Jamaican courts ruled the whole scheme unconstitutional.

But recently, in the CCJ debate, Mrs Malahoo Forte insisted that "at no time did Mr Holness or anyone else say to me that a condition precedent to my appointment as a senator was a vote against the Privy Council. At no time!"

Mr Williams regarded that claim an attack on his own integrity, and told the Senate that the reason he was given for formulation of the letter was the same one he gave Mrs Malahoo Forte. He added: "... If she is saying that she was not given any reason for signing, then she must say why she signed, because sign she did. And, if she is saying she was not given the CCJ as the reason, but given another reason, she must say what that other reason is."

We agree. For this issue goes to the matter of trust and judgment.

First, Mrs Malahoo Forte is no arbitrary individual. She is a former magistrate who holds a high public office, has been a minister of state and has ambition of serving in the Cabinet. She voluntarily raised the issue of the resignation letter in the Senate, where we would expect her to tell the truth on the matter.