Letter of the Day: Don’t stay where you are not wanted
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The position of senator flows from the authority of a mandate given to those elected by the people to the Lower House. In our system, the constitutional offices of prime minister and opposition leader are held only by persons enjoying the clear support of their elected peers.
It is this mandate, directly from the people and through the MPs, that sets the stage for the Senate. There is a third and very important mandate, which some would like to ignore but which is inescapable - the political party.
Before authority is passed to MPs in an election and prime ministers and leaders of the Opposition are selected from among them, the MPs, certainly since independent Jamaica, have all had to get the mandate of the political parties as their ticket to Parliament.
When all three mandates come together, the leaders are asked to recommend persons who are described in the constitution as government or opposition senators. It stands to reason that the recommendation must be based on the discretion and confidence of the leader of the opposition and prime minister, that the persons so appointed will maintain the title 'opposition senator' or 'government senator'.
Regardless of the protections offered by the Constitution for the term of office, once there is a break in the chain of confidence, the senator must recognise that he is sitting against the will of the mandate. The senator would be holding on to a position to which he has no original right. For this reason alone, Arthur Williams should have resigned when asked, especially if he claims to love his country.
The number on each side of the Senate is carefully selected so that the Government does not have the two-thirds majority needed to make changes to the fundamental rights, freedoms, and governance structures entrenched in our Constitution. This is a built-in safety mechanism against extreme changes.
taken for granted
We take this very important safety mechanism for granted. Without it, Jamaica could become a totalitarian state. The leader of the Opposition has the special role to ensure that the persons recommended as 'opposition senators' will maintain the constitutional safeguard.
It is being argued now that the leader of the Opposition has no special powers over how senators vote or whether or not they choose to follow the mandate of the Opposition. Can you imagine the chaos if government senators were to act independently of government policy? Government would become ineffective. This was never the intent of the Constitution.
The convention must be that the senator who has lost the confidence of the appointer ought to resign. This is not a constitutional issue; it's a matter of common decency.