Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
A lifeline has been thrown to a significant number of Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) delegates who are in danger of being ruled out of participating if a leadership election were to take place in November.
In a legal interpretation prepared ahead of tomorrow's weekly meeting of the JLP Standing Committee, Kamina Johnson Smith, a member of the party's Legal and Constitutional Committee, argues that there is no legal basis under Rule 19 of the party's constitution to bar hundreds of delegates from voting.
Last week, the seven-member Legal and Constitutional Committee spent hours labouring over the provisions of the party's constitution after it was recognised that a bulk of constituency committees required to be registered with the secretariat had not met their obligations.
Concerns had been raised that the failure of the constituency committees - 25 of the 63 constituencies across the island - to register would mean 2,000 associated delegates would not be able to vote in any upcoming leadership election.
REGISTRATION NOT REQUIRED
In the introductory section of Johnson Smith's interpretation, a copy of which was obtained by The Sunday Gleaner, she argues that "Although the term 'registration of constituency' has been used informally to refer to the procedure required by Rule 19, the constitution does not explicitly require registration of the constituency".
She stated that Rule 19 actually provides for the registration of certain organs and personnel, which form part of the party structure and are to be found in each constituency.
"The distinction is important as the constitution does not use the term 'constituency' interchangeably with any other term," she argued.
Johnson Smith noted that Rule 19 provides that registration of the following must be submitted in writing by the caretaker during the month of March of each year: constituency committees, divisional committees, polling division committees, branches, polling division captains, and zone supervisors.
She further contended, however, that there are no expressed consequences for failure to comply, and no indication that registration in accordance with Rule 19 should be a condition to the accreditation of delegates.
"Enforcement of registration under Rule 19 (whether in March or as extended) would, as most other rules in the constitution which have no express consequence, rely in the ordinary course of things on the disciplinary organs of the party, or on enforcement by the court, as in the case of any other contract," she argues.
According to Johnson Smith, the constitution expressly states the basis on which a constituency may be deprived of delegates to conference.
She said this is set out in Rule 3, which identifies the members of conference, and argues that it must be read together with Rule 2.
INTENDED FOR MEMBERSHIP RECORDS
Johnson Smith argues that the provisions in Rule 19 were clearly intended to provide the party with a record of the membership of its constituency organs.
"Notwithstanding this administrative intent, the rules do, however, provide for the existence, composition and powers of the constituency committee under Rule 12," she said.
She, however, suggested that Rule 12 does not make the existence, powers or conduct of the committee, including the election of a constituency executive, subject to registration.
"The committee does not come into existence only on registration, and the constitution provided a way for the secretariat to be aware of the membership of the committee executive and any relevant elections, including by way of minutes under regulation 2(8)(a)."
Added Johnson Smith, "Furthermore, I see no basis for implying a term that a constituency committee or executive shall not be recognised without registration," she argued.
Johnson Smith expressed confidence that her interpretation can bear scrutiny in a court of law.