Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Ja's democracy alive and well - GG

Published:Friday | February 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right) in light conversation with (from left) Governor General Sir Patrick Allen; retired Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla; and newly appointed Acting Chief Justice, Justice Bryan Sykes, at Sykes' swearing in ceremony at King’s House on February 1.

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, who presided over a tripartite meeting with representatives of the executive, legislature, and judiciary, said that everyone agreed that the recent developments in the judicial branch of Government could have been better and differently handled.

The meeting was held at King's House on February 16 on the written request of Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Ninety-seven judges from across the island recently gathered at the Supreme Court to discuss the continued refusal of the Prime Minister to appoint Bryan Sykes as chief justice. Since that time, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck has said that Sykes would be appointed to the post.

However, Holness' decision to appoint Sykes as acting chief justice and his comments that "action that brings result will determine the assumption of the role of chief justice" sparked intense national debate on separation of powers, among other constitutional matters.

Allen said that the country can be assured that recent developments were ventilated in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding and that the prime minister and the chief justice reflected on events in the judicial branch.

 

SEVERAL ATTENDEES

 

At last Friday's meeting, the executive was represented by the prime minister, the ministers of finance, national security, and justice and the attorney general. The legislature was represented by the Speaker of the Lower House and the president of the Senate. The judiciary was represented by Sykes, the president of the Court of Appeal, the senior and other puisne judges.

The governor general sought to allay anxieties that the public may have, giving the assurance that "our democracy is alive and well".

In his comments, Holness reiterated that the executive had no intention of undermining or diminishing the role of the judiciary. He told the meeting: "I do not take lightly the exercise of any authority vested in the Office of the Prime Minister to ensure the effective and dignified running of the Jamaican state. My primary interest is to ensure that all of Government works in the best interest of the people and that public resources are efficiently used and properly accounted for by those who use them."

Members of the judiciary said that the meeting allowed for misunderstandings to be cleared up on major issues of concern in a manner that did not bring the judiciary into disrepute and kept it beyond reproach.

"This forum provides an avenue for dialogue, and it should become part of our governance structure. That way, we avoid the recent unfortunate event, which were extraordinary and should not be a common occurrence," said Sykes.