Sat | Dec 10, 2016

It would be a pity to lose Dr Nigel Clarke

Published:Monday | February 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

With the constitutional court having ruled that the request, procurement and use of pre-signed and undated letters of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness to oust Arthur Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton from the Senate being inconsistent with the Constitution, the status of the two senators placed in their space is now of major concern.

Holness had hurriedly named Dr Nigel Clarke and Ruel Reid as replacements for Williams and Tufton.

Clarke, even more so than Reid, has been a godsend to the Senate, exhibiting rare brilliance, a sharp technical mind and the nearly extinct quality of patriotism devoid of partisanship.

Jamaica certainly may not have become aware of his worth had Holness not disrespected the Constitution in the way he did. But out of that bad has come forth immense good. It would be a pity if both Tufton and Williams decide they will continue being senators. If that happens, the members of the Opposition in the Senate should have a serious discussion among themselves and with a view to one person sacrificing his or her position to accommodate Clarke.

But even as we wait to see how that matter will play itself out, one can't help but wonder whether bills passed by the a Senate, which included the strangers - Reid and Clarke - can be successfully challenged in court and deemed unlawful.

At the very least, the Government should consider tabling a bill in the Parliament that would seek to validate and make lawful, all actions done, in good faith, by Clarke and Reid during the unfortunate period brought upon us by Holness' ill-advised decision to resign Tufton and Williams.

It is fascinating that, even in the face of the ruling, Holness appears not to understand what the court has said, issuing two contrasting statements within 24 hours of each other.

In the first statement issued a few hours after the judgment was handed down, Holness said, ".... the decisions summarised in the judgment do not disturb the present composition of the Senate."

Then later, he said, "The ruling by the constitutional court is of such great importance, that I have referred it to a team of attorneys to research and advise on any implications it may have on our constitutional arrangements and how it affects the spirit and intent of its framework in respect to the role of Opposition and Government senators."

The Gavel hopes that Holness is not going to consult with himself on the weighty matter, lest it results in more confusion. And, too, Williams, the attorney-at-law who was at the time chief of staff and leader of opposition business in the Senate, and the one who created the letters and advised on their use and constitutionality, and everyone like him should be kept away from this process.

One hopes that now that the Constitution has triumphed, Williams will stay far from the legislature because of his role in this abominable scheme. He should now properly resign and allow Clarke to carry on what he has started.

 

MINISTER IN PROCUREMENT

 

On another note, we see where a new electricity bill has been tabled in the House of Representatives, proposing, among other things, to put the responsibility of procuring for the grid in the gift of the minister with responsibility for energy. That's a position with which I am most uncomfortable.

The Gavel recalls Phillip Paulwell, the minister of energy, declaring outside of Gordon House that he feels the responsibility of procurement should be removed from the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).

Not long after, the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET) was created, and the OUR was stripped of the role because of its perceived failure in securing the building of a natural gas-fired power plant to help reduce Jamaica's light bill.

One would have thought that would be temporary. But the bill, now before Parliament, is seeking to remove the OUR totally from procurement.

I am, in principle, against placing such awesome powers in the hands of any minister. Not only is the matter of energy a highly technical one, but the vast amounts of money that procurement attracts creates room for corruption.

It, therefore, should not be that the person who has responsibility for setting policy be the same to go to the market to procure goods and services. For the sake of transparency, it is best that these issues be done by an independent body.

Thegavel@gleanerjm.com