Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Labourites learning nothing

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Roper
Golding... at the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry
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Learning nothing from one's own errors has become the remarkable skill of the members of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). In fact, if the events of two weeks ago are anything to go by, learning nothing appears to be the qualifying mark for membership in the JLP.

The JLP has shown the remarkable capacity to bare its own self-inflicted wounds and the stubborn refusal to turn hindsight into an instrument of development, benefiting by turning away from the misfeasance of its own past.

The first example of this curious feature was the testimony by former Prime Minister (PM) Bruce Golding, given before the West Kingston commission of enquiry. Mr Golding was asked a series of questions by attorney for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Deborah Martin about the escalation of violence May 23, 24 and 25, 2010 leading up to, and immediately after, the declaration of the state of emergency. She enquired about the shooting up of the Constant Spring Police Station, roadblocks on Mannings Hill and Red Hills roads in Kingston, shooting sprees in Spanish Town, St Catherine, and about incidents along South Camp Road in which, on the same day, persons firing from on top of buildings shot at a judge of the Supreme Court, an officer of the Director of Public Prosecutions' office, and the security forces.

In response to each question, Mr Golding said he was unaware of these incidents. He had not been so briefed, he was not aware of media stories to that effect. In fact, Mr Golding appeared to stop short of saying he paid no attention to these matters.

When attorney for Mr Golding, Ransford Braham, supported the objection by Lord Gifford to Ms Martin's line of cross-examination as being irrelevant and tedious, Chairman David Simmonds disallowed the objection. Sir David remarked further that the line of questioning was particularly helpful to him as a non-Jamaican, as it assisted him to appreciate the gravity of the situation surrounding the declaration of the state of emergency in May 2010.

Sir David also said the curious thing was that it appeared to him, from the responses of former PM Golding, that not even the then PM had fully apprehended the extent of the escalation of the situation.

Golding was also cross-examined about whether he would agree that if at the time the heads of the security forces, then Commissioner of Police Hardley Lewin and Major General Stewart Saunders had visited Golding with the news of the warrant for the extradition of Christopher Dudus Coke on August 24, 2009 (nine months before the events of May 2010), they had received Golding's support to detain Coke, pre-emptively, this would have prevented the loss of at least 76 civilian lives. Golding would not concede this.

Golding refused to accept any personal responsibility. Five years after the events of 2010, despite the loss of human life, Golding appears to have learnt nothing.

 

resignation letters

 

The second is Andrew Holness, the current opposition leader and himself a former prime minister, who is also honing his skills to learn little from his own errors. The conundrum facing the JLP members of the Senate is a cocktail of Andrew's own creation. This 'young and different' Jamaican has come up with a contrivance to keep Jamaica's jurisprudence tied to the apron strings of the United Kingdom Privy Council. This is the most remarkable irony of all.

He received the best of the Caribbean education system, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, but wants to promote a system of justice founded on the notion of Caribbean inferiority relative to our British counterparts. In order to give effect to this view and to prevent the coming into being of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its final appellate jurisdiction where Jamaica is concerned, Andrew Holness has acted in a manner that the court has determined to be unconstitutional and unlawful. He has sought to hold hostage the members of the Senate that he advised the governor general to appoint by having them pre-sign their letters of resignation in order to prevent them from casting a vote in favour of the CCJ.

He has sought to use this concocted instrument to spitefully get rid of two of his party colleagues who voted against him in an internal party election to select the party leader. When the court handed down its ruling on the matter of the unconstitutionality of the use of the pre-signed letters, Andrew first stood his ground. He later apologised, but importantly, took no steps to correct his action. He did not withdraw the improperly appointed senators.

All the events surrounding this bit of malfeasance have weakened Andrew Holness politically, within his party, and have eroded his credibility as a national leader. And yet, I believe if a vote were called for today on the CCJ, Andrew would both vote against it and direct his colleagues in the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament to vote against it. He has learnt nothing. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.

The third are the senators that the courts have now vindicated by allowing them to retake their seats in the Upper House, Dr Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams. Neither man has shown any humility or grace by their conduct on retaking their seat in the House. They insisted on having their say, despite the fact that the president of the Senate, Floyd Morris, supported by the resolution passed by the Senate, sought clarification from the Supreme Court on the matter of who should properly sit in the Upper House.

Having failed to give due honour to their party leader, Andrew Holness, both Williams and Tufton appear to be willing to take the same approach to the president of the Senate. I believe that having regard to the comments he made about Mr Holness during the cut and thrust of the internal campaign to select a leader, Christopher Tufton ought to have offered his resignation to Andrew Holness.

As for Arthur Williams, he was the architect of his own demise.

The least that the two senators could have done is to keep quiet and humble.

n Garnett Roper is president of the Jamaica Thelogical Seminary and chairman of the Jamaica Urban Transport Company. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garnettroper@hotmail.com.