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Seaga says Holness should take Senate seat case to Privy Council

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2015 | 3:08 AMJovan Johnson
Seaga

Edward Seaga, one of the framers of the Jamaican Constitution says the Opposition Leader Andrew Holness should take the senate seat saga to the London-based Privy Council, as the rulings from two domestic courts may have wrongly interpreted the spirit of the law.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal upheld a Constitutional Court ruling that Holness breached the Constitution when he used undated, pre-signed resignation letters to remove Dr Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams from the Senate in November 2013.

Both courts also agreed that the use of the letters breached the independence of the Senate.

However, Seaga, a former JLP leader and former Prime Minister is contending that it was never the intention of the framers of the Constitution for senators to vote their individual opinions on matters before the Upper House.

"If they have individual views, they must settle that among the opposition members but they themselves must vote with the Opposition," he said.

"If you break up that scheme, you have defeated the role of the Senate and the Opposition in the senate to protect the country from breaches of human rights," Seaga argued in an interview this morning on Nationwide News Network.

According to him, on that basis, the Constitutional Court and the Court of Appeal have wrongly interpreted the Constitution in ruling against the Opposition Leader.

Seaga’s arguments conflict with the opinions of the judges including Justice Courtney Daye from the Constitutional Court, who opined that independence in the Senate was one of the "high ideals, principles and values that the framers of the Constitution intended".

But the former Prime Minister insists that "there is a good to have a conscientious vote [but] there is a greater good to have a single vote."

Arthur Williams, who took the original matter to court, had argued that the undated, pre-signed letters of resignation that he and six others signed were as a result of the need of Holness to ensure a party position on the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Seaga says there was no need for any provision in the Constitution to indicate that the Opposition Leader or the Prime Minister can remove senators.

"A Constitution doesn’t put every little thing into writing. You assume certain things", Seaga said

The Appeals Court has ruled that only the Governor General has the power to remove a senator since he appoints on the advice of the Opposition Leader or Prime Minister.

Seaga says Holness should now take the matter to the Privy Council.

"Nobody would give up this fight without going to the Privy Council. There are weaknesses in this particular set of rulings," Seaga said.

In a statement yesterday, Holness said  with the Appeals Court ruling "closure has been brought to the legal issues" and the focus should now be on the business of the people.