Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Fall on your sword, Arthur Williams

Published:Wednesday | February 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Williams considers having been vindicated by the ruling of the Constitutional Court in the matter concerning the use by Opposition Leader Andrew Holness of pre-signed resignation letters to engineer his removal from the Senate. He told The Gleaner's justice coordinator, Barbara Gayle, "I made the point from day one that it's not about me personally. It's about our constitutional scheme and structure, and I am happy that the Constitutional Court has pronounced on it."

I was pleased to hear those words coming from the man, despite his obvious struggles with having had a large hole punched through his pride by Holness' action against him.

Arthur Williams is a gentleman. But being a gentleman doesn't make a man immune to acts of carelessness. Nor does it preclude them from taking decisions that turn crisis into calamity. If Holness' actions and the court ruling are ingredients in a crisis for the Jamaica Labour Party, Arthur Williams' intention to report the matter to the Senate president so he can regain his 'rightful place' in the Upper House is the point at which calamity is reached.

Things will become calamitous if Williams gets his way and reassumes a post in the Senate gifted to him by Andrew Holness. Does he expect Holness to have confidence in him in the future? Does he expect a mere statement that all hatchets, cutlasses and vials of poison be buried in the name of unity, to resound with Holness and those party bigwigs who supported the move to oust him from the Senate?

Definite Calamity

And what of Dr Nigel Clarke and Ruel Reid, two good men who were sworn in on November 28, 2013, to fill the 'vacancies' on the Opposition benches in the Senate, created by the ouster of Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton? What does Holness tell them? Sections 34 to 47 of the Constitution speak to matters concerning membership of the Senate. Neither man breached any of those conditions or requirements and took the oath of office in good faith. Is Holness to tell them now that they were unduly sworn as no vacancy existed for them to fill? See what I mean by calamity?

It's possible, in bemoaning his lot, that Arthur Williams struggles to see how Holness could use such a dirty trick on him to activate his removal as a legislator. I've written previously that I have no sympathy for Williams, given that it was he who devised the trick, put it in writing and no doubt advised Holness of its immunity against any legal challenge.

So doesn't the fact that the Constitutional Court has ruled that the 'Arthur Williams Method for Controlling Senators and Keeping Them in Line' cannot wash mean that Holness has even more reason to feel aggrieved by the mere sight of Arthur Williams, sitting with the Opposition's Senate caucus for a meeting with their political leader? And if Williams' advice to Holness in this matter has been deemed unconstitutional, what other advice/trick did Williams craft for his leader that may well prove, if tested, to also fail the test of a court challenge?

When all is said, done and then repeated, Arthur Williams' court challenge has set down an important marker for how political leaders shall deal with persons they appoint to the Senate. That's the great thing from this unfolding saga.

Williams has spoken of his court action being motivated by concern for the country's constitutional scheme and structure. Now that the court has addressed that concern, Williams has won a victory for every senator in the future who may have been forced to operate under the strain of recall, by the use of pre-signed letters of resignation. I grudgingly credit him for this success, given that he provided what has proven to be bad legal advice to the Opposition leader when he conceptualised the letters and advised on their sinister use.

If, as he has said, Williams was not in pursuit of any personal gain from the episode, he should end the foolishness and promptly declare he has no interest in serving the Senate under a political leader who doesn't want him. In doing so, he would have exercised his power to prevent crisis from becoming calamity.

Selah.

George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.