Sat | Jul 4, 2020

Leader of the Opposition position a constitutional matter

Published:Thursday | August 15, 2019 | 12:15 AM


Some call it the silly season; some may think it just poor legal advice. Whichever the case, it was nothing short of amazing.

On Monday, I heard on the ‘Nightly News’ on TVJ, People’s National Party (PNP) presidential candidate Peter Bunting say the following the words: “If this were England, I would already be the leader of the Opposition, because I have the support of the majority of the opposition members of the House of Representatives”.

My mother always used a proverb to us growing up, in reminding us to be humble, “bird fly too fast fly pass dem nest”. The appointment of a leader of the Opposition is stipulated in Section 50 of the Jamaican Constitution.

Clause 5 of the section states: “If, in the judgement of the Governor-General, the Leader of the Opposition no longer is able to command the support of a majority of the members of the House of Representatives, who do not support the Government, or, as the case may be, the support of the largest single group of such members who are prepared to support one leader, the Governor-General, acting in his discretion, shall revoke the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition.”

The People’s National Party Opposition is made up of 29 members, 13 of whom have declared a preference for Mr Bunting in the PNP presidential race. Of the other 16, six are undeclared either because of party position they occupy and/or their preference to remain silent.

On what basis, therefore, is Mr Bunting appointing himself leader of the Opposition, save and except for the tradition of the party leader being the leader of the Opposition?

Two things are to be noted. In 2006, when Dr Phillips had the support of the majority of MPs and declared the race with Portia Simpson Miller, I do not remember his declaring himself prime minister; and second, the last time I checked, 16 is greater than 13.

Colin Campbell

Former Minister of Information