Thu | Dec 12, 2019

Those Ill-Fated Senatorial Letters - Their True Purpose

Published:Thursday | February 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM


I submit to you and your readers that there is a more fundamental issue undergirding the now-botched attempt by Andrew Holness to exact policy-position compliance of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) senators through signed, undated resignation letters. At the root of this unconstitutional flight of fancy was the desire to ensure, through a measure of coercion, that no JLP senator would vote in favour of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) becoming Jamaica's final appellate court, essentially bidding bon voyage to the UK Privy Council.

This raises questions for the current cadre of JLP senators and their erstwhile colleagues, Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams, who all signed the now discredited letters in the first place. Is it that they knowingly allowed themselves to be muzzled by their party leader? Are these upper house legislators so beholden to party leader and agenda that they would sacrifice conscience in deference to party dictate? If so, would a rationale debate on the issue of the CCJ ever stand a chance in the face of such blinkered sycophantics? Has it occurred to these distinguished men and women that the letters strongly suggest that the leader does not trust their independent judgment on this matter? Another relevant question is: what motivates the Opposition and others to appear to abhor the CCJ and adore the Privy Council so much?

Some history helps us to place the entire farcical saga in its proper context. The JLP still romanticises and harbours nostalgic thoughts of the referendum victory of 1962, when, by a judicious dose of scare tactics, a large enough segment of the voting population was swayed against supporting the establishment of the West Indies Federation.




The referendum histrionics back then generated fortuitous political momentum for the JLP, and arguably eked out for the party an unlikely electoral victory subsequently. So, half a century later, the referendum may be viewed by the Opposition as a useful mobilisation tool to peddle hysteria in the political marketplace, with an eye on the ultimate political prize. This is sheer political strategy, and little to do with the superiority, moral or otherwise, of the referendum option.

So, while mouthing support for the CCJ, at least conceptually, the Opposition has insisted on a referendum result as the basis for its entrenchment as the final appellate court, even when less costly and emotive options exist. Political momentum through referendum heat, with light being the main casualty, appears, therefore, to be the primary consideration, and undated signed resignation letters were a critical lever to this end. Our local courts continue to demonstrate remarkable courage and insight, and inspire confidence in the practice of Caribbean jurisprudence.