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Crucial meeting to decide Holness' fate as leader

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2015 | 3:00 AM

Members of the parliamentary opposition will come face to face tomorrow at a crucial meeting which has been called by Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Derrick Smith, to decide, among other things, whether Andrew Holness should continue as Opposition Leader.

This follows a landmark ruling handed down yesterday by the Court of Appeal, which threw out an appeal brought by Holness and made it abundantly clear that Senators Arthur Williams

and Dr Christopher Tufton did not resign and must retake their positions in the Senate.

The Court also criticised Holness for submitting the letters to the governor general. The court issued a stern war-ning that a leader of the opposition is not authorised to submit a letter of resignation for a senator.

Yesterday, journalists waited nearly three hours to get a comment from the Opposition leader, who was said to have been engaged in several meetings in Gordon House. However, late in the evening when Holness exited the Parliament building, he was hastily ushered into his vehicle, which had reversed and parked immediately before the entrance of Parliament, an area where media interviews are prohibited.

Despite calls to the Opposition leader for an interview, Holness was whisked away without a response.

status quo will remain

In a statement yesterday, Holness indicated that the decision by the Court of Appeal had brought closure to the legal issues.

"This will now enable the party to focus its full attention on the business of the people," he said.

Holness' comments came some time after Opposition MP Delroy Chuck, the spokesman on justice and legal affairs, cited the damage to the party and Holness' image as he resigned as a member of the shadow cabinet.

Earlier, Smith told The Gleaner that when he attends the meeting of MPs on Friday, his support for Holness will remain unchanged.

"I will not join you in speculation as to what will happen there. I will go there to support Holness as leader of the party. My feeling is that the status quo will remain," Smith contended.

He expressed the view that the Opposition leader would emerge stronger out of this whole affair.

Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Marisa Dalrymple Philibert said she was embarrassed at the turn of events in the party.

"Undoubtedly, it is an embarrassing matter, and I am myself an attorney of

thirty-odd years, and ... the court has ruled, (and it's) unfortunate for us as a party."

James Robertson said he could not pronounce on whether Holness should resign but noted that the ongoing saga should not have been taken to court, noting that it required a political solution.

Attorney General Patrick Atkinson suggested that the ruling by the Appeals Court reflected the opinion he expressed after the Constitutional Court had ruled.

Senior Jamaica Labour Party MP Pearnel Charles raised eyebrows yesterday while speaking with journalists when he divulged that he signed a letter in 1972 when he was appointed senator at a time when trade unionist Hugh Lawson Shearer was prime minister.

Charles vowed to support Holness as leader of the party dismissing concerns that the leader's position had become untenable.

Holness had appealed against a Constitutional Court ruling last month that he breached the Constitution when he used undated and pre-signed resignation letters to oust Williams and Dr Tufton from the Senate in November 2013. Williams took the issue to court.

"I have again prevailed in the courts and I am genuinely praying that the Opposition leader will know the right thing to do", Williams remarked after the ruling.

Holness was ordered to pay two-thirds of Williams' legal costs. Williams was represented by attorneys-at-law Dr Lloyd Barnett and Wentworth Charles.

President of the Court of Appeal Justice Seymour Panton said "it is my view, therefore, that the Full Court was correct in ruling that the letters of resignation were inconsistent with the Constitution and so null and void.

He said further that the legal and constitutional position was that Williams and Dr Tufton did not resign.

"They are, therefore, entitled to retake their positions in the Senate," Panton ruled.

Justice Mahadev Dukharan and Justice Patrick Brooks, who also heard the appeal, agreed that the senators did not resign.

The court, in criticising Holness for what he did, said "the governor general is not expected to go behind a letter of resignation submitted by the holder of a constitutional office".