Senate dilemma could head to Supreme Court
It appears the Supreme Court could be called upon to settle the matter of the composition of the Senate.
Tom Tavares-Finson, leader of opposition business in the Senate, yesterday met with Senate President Floyd Morrison and Clerk to the Houses of Parliament Heather Cooke to discuss the matter of the composition.
Tavares-Finson declined to state the outcome of the meeting, but told The Gleaner that today's sitting of the Senate - the first since the court ruling - will be guided by Section 3 of the Parliament (Membership Question) Act.
The section states that any question, whether a person has been validly appointed as a member of the Senate or a member of the House of Representatives, shall be referred to and determined by the court, in accordance with the provisions of the act.
Hours earlier, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson said the effect of the ruling of the Constitutional Court in the Arthur Williams v Andrew Holness matter is that Dr Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams remain senators.
UNDATED RESIGNATION LETTERS
Holness had used undated, resignation letters to remove Williams and Tufton from the Senate and replaced them with businessman Dr Nigel Clarke and educator Ruel Reid.
The court said that the use of the letters is inconsistent with the Constitution, contrary to public policy, unlawful, and accordingly, null and void.
Meanwhile, in a release last night, Clarke accepted that he is no longer a senator. He added that he was looking forward to the opportunity to serve his country again under the right circumstances.
Atkinson yesterday noted that the Parliament (Membership Question) Act said that the court has to resolve the question of whether a person is validly appointed a member of the Senate. The law says this is to be done by petition presented to the court by the clerk by authority of resolution of the Senate.
"The Supreme Court has given a declaratory judgment that Mr Williams' and, by extension, Dr Christopher Tufton's resignations are null and void. I am of the opinion that it has, by inference, ruled on the invalidity of the appointments of Mr Reid and Dr Clarke," Atkinson said.
He said, however, that Morris does not have the authority to make a determination regarding the validity of the new Senate appointments.
"This is a matter that falls within the remit of the court, and a very strong argument can be made that the appointments of Mr Reid and Dr Clarke were not constitutionally or validly made," the attorney general said.
SENATE RESOLUTION OR COURT
"It would be a matter for the Senate itself to decide how to resolve it by resolution. They could decide to go to court, they could decide to ask the attorney general to take a lawsuit, or they can take whatever action they think is appropriate," Atkinson said.
"The Senate is a very important institution in our whole constitutional arrangement. I know that the parties involved are responsible persons and I know that they are people who have a good strong sense of their civic duty, and I would anticipate that they will do the appropriate thing not to create any sort of undue embarrassment to this important institution," the attorney general said.
Meanwhile, Atkinson said there is no need for any validation laws to be passed to cover the actions of Clarke and Reid.
"I think the legislation that were passed are valid," Atkinson said.
He also said that it is unlikely they will be asked to refund the $17,000 per day stipend paid to them as senators for the period they have served.