Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Letter of the day: Why 1995 parliamentary consensus must be reversed

Published:Monday | February 22, 2016 | 2:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding quite correctly enquires whether the People's National Party is resiling from the mid-1990s consensus position arrived at by the David Coore-led joint select committee on constitutional and electoral reform for "appointments to certain sensitive positions, including those of the chief justice and president of the Court of Appeal, (to) require a two-thirds majority vote in each House of Parliament".

He should, in addition, bear in mind that since that decision, a number of game-changing occurrences have taken place to warrant a complete rethink of the matter.

First, there came the development of the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in which, at the insistence of stakeholders, including the Jamaica Labour Party Opposition, a mechanism has been employed for the appointment of the judges to the Bench that helps to "insulate the judiciary from political influence".

 

SOUGHT TO BE EMULATED

 

That approach has been acclaimed far and wide across the globe and has even been sought to be emulated in the judicial reform process in no less a jurisdiction than the United Kingdom. Surely, Jamaica cannot turn back from that approach.

Second, as Justice Minister Mark Golding has pointed out, our Court of Appeal ruling that our Constitution was breached by members of both Houses of our Parliament certainly does not inspire confidence that Jamaica should hold to the 1995 decision.

For, such a breach constitutes the most unpardonable sin of governance, and there is no guarantee that it will not be repeated.

And third, as we have witnessed in the recent CCJ debate in both Houses, at least one side of the Parliament refuses to take to heart the fact that the two-thirds majority requirement for the passage of, and amendments to, entrenched constitutional provisions is meant to be used as a shield placed at the disposal of a law-abiding Opposition to guard against unconstitutional behaviour on the part of a government, and not a sword to thrust into the heart of lawful and developmental endeavours of the Government by insisting on methods that have no constitutional grounding whatsoever.

In light of the above, then, would former Prime Minister Golding not also consider it prudent that the 1995 decision be revisited and, indeed, reversed?

A.J. NICHOLSON

Legal Adviser

People's National Party