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Supreme Court asked to rule on Williams, Tufton

Published:Tuesday | February 24, 2015 | 2:00 AMBarbara Gayle
Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer Dr Christopher Tufton (left) and Arthur Williams, in the Senate on their return last week.

The clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Heather Cooke, has filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking declarations as to whether Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton are subsisting members of the Senate in accordance with the Constitution of Jamaica.

Questions are now being posed to the court following a resolution passed in the Senate on February 13 when Williams and Tufton returned to take their seats following a Constitutional Court ruling on February 6.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness had used undated and pre-signed resignation letters to remove them from the Senate in November 2013 and replaced them with businessman Dr Nigel Clarke and educator Ruel Reid.

Williams challenged his forced removal and the court ruled last month that the use of the letters was inconsistent with the Constitution, contrary to public policy, unlawful, and, accordingly, null and void.

When Williams and Tufton returned to the Senate, a resolution was passed for the court to determine their fate.

The matter is set for hearing next Tuesday when an application will be made to join Holness as a party to the proceedings.

QUESTIONS FILED

Yesterday, Queen's Counsel Michael Hylton, who is representing Cooke, filed the following questions for the court's determination.

"Are Mr Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton subsisting members of the Senate in accordance with the Constitution of Jamaica?

"If the answer to (a) above is yes, were the purported appointments of Dr Nigel Clarke and Mr Ruel Reid as members of the Senate null and void?

"If the answer to (a) above is no, were the purported appointments of Dr Nigel Clarke and Mr Ruel Reid as members of the Senate valid and effective and do they remain members of the Senate in accordance with the Constitution of Jamaica?"

It was outlined in the document filed that the judgment did not comment on the present status of the senators and the members of the Upper House were uncertain as to the effect of the judgment on the composition of the Senate.

When contacted yesterday, attorney-at-law Wentworth Charles, who is representing Williams and Tufton, said: "I have not yet been served, but on receipt of the petition I will send Mr Hylton a copy of the judgment for his edification."

Respondents named are Williams, Tufton, Reid, Clarke and the attorney general.

Cooke is seeking declaratory relief under Section 44 of the Constitution and the referral of the questions is pursuant to Section 3 of the Parliament (Membership Questions) Act.

Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, QC, had said during a press conference that the effect of the ruling of the Constitutional Court was that Williams and Tufton remain senators. He said, however, that Floyd Morris, the president of the Senate, did not have the authority to make a determination regarding the validity of the new Senate appointments.

"This is a matter that falls within the remit of the court, and a very strong argument can be made that the appointments of Mr Reid and Dr Clarke were not constitutionally or validly made," the attorney general said.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com