Fri | Aug 23, 2019

Phillips considers court action over Holness' statutory declaration

Published:Wednesday | August 7, 2019 | 10:36 AM
Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips - File photo.

Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips, says he’s prepared to go to court to get an order to compel the Integrity Commission to release the statutory declaration of Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

The commission is required by law to gazette the summary report of the statutory declarations of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

The Gleaner obtained a copy of Phillips’ report which indicated that he and his family declared assets and income totalling roughly $185 million last year.

READ: Opposition Leader and family declare $185m in assets, income for 2018

Holness’ report has not been made public.

In a statement today, the opposition leader argued that the continued delay is unacceptable.

“The Prime Minister’s failure to adhere to the law is a signal to the public that laws can be ignored with impunity if one holds high political office. I will not condone that,” Phillips said.

He said that if there is no statement from the commission by the end of this week, he will instruct his lawyers to seek a court order to compel it to immediately take action to fulfil its statutory obligations “in relation to the Prime Minister’s apparent disregard of a law that binds him personally, as well as thousands of public servants, who at the peril of prosecution, must obey it.”

FULL STATEMENT

People’s National Party (PNP) President, Dr Peter Phillips says the continued delay in the release of the statutory declaration of the Prime Minister, as required by the Integrity Commission Act of Jamaica, is totally unacceptable.

Dr Phillips says if there is no statement from the Integrity Commission by the end of this week, he will instruct his team of lawyers to seek an order of mandamus in the Supreme Court to compel the Integrity Commission to immediately take action to fulfil its statutory obligations in relation to the Prime Minister’s apparent disregard of a law that binds him personally, as well as thousands of public servants, who at the peril of prosecution, must obey it. 

Dr Phillips maintains that it is in the national interest that the country's laws are upheld and national institutions are in compliance.

“The Prime Minister’s failure to adhere to the law is a signal to the public that laws can be ignored with impunity if one holds high political office. I will not condone that,” Dr Phillips said.

The Opposition Leader, whose Statutory Declaration has been filed, approved by the Integrity Commission, gazetted and the summary of which made public in compliance with the law, said the lack of urgency displayed by the Prime Minister struck at the heart of his position as Chief Steward of the country.

He said the continued delay gave the impression that the country’s laws are made for only some while others can flout them without consequence.

Questioning what could have changed so drastically in the Prime Minister’s circumstances in 2017 to trigger such a significant delay in releasing his integrity report for 2018, Dr Phillips said the issue was not about any challenge of Mr Holness' rights to resources but the need for public servants to conform to the requisite levels of accountability by adhering to laws enacted to engender accountability and integrity of the country’s leaders.

Dr Phillips noted that this was even more critical against the background of the unprecedented levels of financial scandals and instances of misappropriation of public funds that have so far characterised the Holness Administration.

He said the disturbing misuse of public funds in so many sensitive areas, in the face of increased levels of poverty and hardship in Jamaica, was of grave cause for concern.

Dr Phillips said the embarrassing state of affairs, against the background of rising crime, should have prompted the Prime Minister to act quickly to set a firm example against corruption and ensure that his integrity report was released in a timely manner and avoid giving comfort to criminality of any kind.

We want to hear from you! Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169, email us at editors@gleanerjm.com or onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com.