Sat | Sep 22, 2018

Robinson erred on Interpretation Act

Published:Saturday | February 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM


In his article under the heading 'Opinions matter', published in The Gleaner on February 12, 2015, Gordon Robinson argued that the Supreme Court erred in its decision in the Williams v Holness case.

I agree that opinions matter. They can also widely differ. Quot homines, tot sententiae, as the Romans would say, meaning as many persons, as many opinions. It is, therefore, not surprising that I disagree with many sections of Mr Robinson's article, but I only propose to deal with one aspect here.

It is important that expressions of opinion are based on grounds which are true and accurate. A major plank of Mr Robinson's argument is that the Jamaican Interpretation Act applies to the Constitution, and thus there is a statutory implied power given by Section 35 of this act to the person who appoints to dismiss.

This argument is erroneous not primarily because the Constitution is not an "act", but because, regrettably, it is not a Jamaican statutory instrument. It is a schedule to, and part of, a United Kingdom Order in Council, titled the Jamaica (Constitution) Order in Council, 1962, and bears the UK reference number 1962, No. 1550.

Further, the reference in the Interpretation Act 1889 in Section 1(2) of the Constitution itself is to the UK Interpretation Act, the traditional citation for which is 52 & 53 Victoria, Chapter 63 as indicated in the marginal note. The Jamaican Interpretation Act was passed in 1968 and its legal reference is Act 8 of 1968.

Since the UK Act has no equivalent of Section 35 of the Jamaican Interpretation Act on which Mr Robinson relies, this argument is based on an erroneous foundation. Moreover, the Jamaican Interpretation Act states that when it refers to an act, it means any statute enacted by the legislature of the island, which we all know the Constitution is not.