Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Leaders should have right to boot senators

Published:Tuesday | February 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM


I READ the views expressed by Gordon Robinson on the constitutional case, Williams v Holness, in The Gleaner dated February 12, 2015, and I shared his views.

Subsequently, I read the judgment and thought it was sound. Dr Lloyd Barnett, in an article in your paper on Saturday, February 14, 2015, said Mr Robinson's interpretation of Section 35 of the Jamaica Interpretation Act is based on an erroneous foundation, as this section is not addressing the Constitution but ordinary laws enacted by the Jamaican legislature.

It is clear that whereas the Constitution gives the leaders of both parties the right to appoint senators, it is silent on the right to revoke. The question, then, is, is this situation desirable?

The remedy, if it is thought necessary, is to obtain a constitutional amendment that may be long and drawn out, or for the courts to interpret the Constitution in such a way that it makes sense. Then again, what is seen as good sense to some may be seen as nonsense to others.

There are those who argue for a strict interpretation regardless of the consequences, and those for a liberal interpretation to address what is found reasonable, practical or socially desirable, as the courts should not do anything in vain or create confusion.

It is well known that when people are faced with challenges, they consult a lawyer to see how they can deal with the situation without breaking the law. The leader of the Opposition was faced with such a challenge and he sought legal advice and acted accordingly.

The Constitution recognises the importance of political parties, the role of the Senate, and gives the leaders the right of appointments based on their support in the Lower House. It is a political appointment.


public policy


It seems, therefore, that if an appointee to the Senate no longer enjoys the confidence of the leader of the party, on a matter of principle, he or she should resign, failing which the leader of the party should be able to request the governor general to revoke the appointment.

It seems also that "public policy" could allow for that interpretation, since the Constitution was silent, and the court could have ruled in that direction, irrespective of the pre-signed, undated letters.

The call for Mr Holness to resign on the basis that he broke the Constitution is insincere. He acted in good faith on legal advice and there was political precedent by Dr Eric Williams, former prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr Holness should only resign when he no longer enjoys the confidence of those who selected him.


Kingston 5