Tue | Apr 25, 2017

It wasn't me! - Arthur Williams refutes claim that he was architect of letters used against him

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 2:00 AMArthur Hall
Dr Christopher Tufton (left) whispers to Arthur Williams on their return to the Senate recently.

Faced with mounting criticisms for his role in a scheme which the court has deemed unconstitutional, attorney-at-law Arthur Williams has moved to clear the air on the pre-signed letters used to oust him and fellow senator, Dr Christopher Tufton, from the Senate.

Days after the court ruled that the use of the letters was unconstitutional, Williams told The Sunday Gleaner that while he was the author of these letters, he did not design the scheme.

"I publicly stated that I drafted the pre-signed undated letters of resignation - drafted them, not crafted them - at the request of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness," declared Williams.

"It is now being treated as undisputed fact that the letters were my idea and solely my doing. I reject the statements which gave rise to that view," added Williams.

Pointing to the affidavit he filed in court, Williams said the letters were done because Holness was deeply concerned that no one should be appointed to the Senate who was not likely to be, during the term of office, committed to the position of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in regard to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

According to Williams, after discussion with Holness, it was agreed that he would prepare undated letters of resignation to be used by Holness in the event of any member appearing to take a view or position on the issue of the CCJ other than in accordance with the official position of the JLP.

FEROCIOUS CAMPAIGN

"The well-coordinated and ferocious campaign in the media and on social network sites since the court's decision was designed to reinforce the false premise that these letters were solely my idea from start to finish. This is simply not correct and I refuse to leave this gross inaccuracy unchallenged," said Williams, who returned to the Senate just over one week ago.

"When I met with the opposition leader recently ... . I made it clear to him that I would not allow the version of the events as set out in his affidavit to remain unchallenged. I refuse to be unfairly cast as the villain in this matter and history must not be distorted.

"We all must take responsibility for our actions and I remain appalled, disappointed and outraged at the distortion of the facts. I have publicly apologised for my role in preparing these letters which I did not at the time deem to be unconstitutional. When I decided to file my court claim, I did so to challenge the manner in which these letters were used by the opposition leader. My lawyers advised (then) that the letters themselves were unconstitutional and argued the point successfully."

Williams was absent from last Thursday's State Opening of Parliament for the 2015-2016 parliamentary year, but he said that was because of previous commitments and not a signal of any fallout over his court action.

"Let me preempt the inevitable negative campaign and castigation that I will face from factions within the JLP, who view any disagreement with 'leader' as an attempt to 'mash up the party', as the culture of JLP politics is that 'leader does no wrong'.

"Let it be known that by refuting these false allegations, I do not seek to embarrass the party leader. I am merely placing all the facts on the table so as to defend my name and reputation," declared Williams.

According to Williams, he did not take a side in the 2013 contest between Holness and Audley Shaw for the leadership of the JLP, but even if he had taken a side that would be the right of every member of the party.

"I had previously served as a senator for 11 continuous years, appointed by three JLP leaders and had faithfully carried the party's official position on fundamental issues. If I had any difficulty with any fundamental party position, my principles would dictate that I voluntarily resign.

"If I had changed my position on the issue of the CCJ, for example, I would have resigned forthwith, so that there would have been no need to use pre-signed letters. But I see no principle in being asked to resign because of any position that I may take in a contest for leadership within the party. I fail to see the principle in resigning, or worse, being forced to resign for not supporting a candidate in a leadership race."

See full response from Williams in In Focus.