Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Is Holness 'Man A Yard' at JLP?

Published:Sunday | February 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Daniel Thwaites, Contributor

Mr Holness may well be able to survive the immense public disappointment about the pre-signed resignation letters. I suspect he will. But it's an open question if he will be able to survive his party's machinations to eject him. To borrow a phrase from retired Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis: "It sipple like huckro!"

As an observer, I am yet to be convinced that Holness should be forced to resign for his mishandling of the Senate firings and appointments. I've listened to some of those attacking him, and I admit there are some powerful arguments for their case, but I don't think his error here rises to a level requiring resignation.

I agree that there's a large mess on the floor of the House and it's going to take some work and lots of napkins to clean it up. Lettergate has turned into Housegate, wherein although he is entitled to only eight senators, Mr Holness has caused the governor general to appoint 10. He has not behaved admirably, and he has plunged the country into something of a constitutional crisis.

So how do I explain a reluctance to join the chorus calling for his head?

Perhaps it is because I can't erase from my mind that Arthur Williams was the legal adviser and author of the letters, telling Holness that they passed constitutional muster. To me, there's something incredibly distasteful about advising a man down a path then crucifying him for going down it. I'm not saying Holness is a babe in the woods, but the Good Book does have a clarifying passage about those who lead the youth astray, and how it would be better that a millstone be tied around their necks, etc.

Maybe it's because the precise power over removing senators isn't spelled out clearly in the Constitution, and it is genuinely a matter that eminent legal minds could, and do, disagree about.

Or it could simply be my assessment that many waiting in the wings of the Labour Party and hoping for Holness' dismantling and removal would scarcely offer any improvement to the country.

Who signed?

By the way, I would like to know how many of the JLP senators signed the undated resignation letters. Holness should make this information public. I feel it would give us insight into the thinking of some of our rulers. I don't say it would be a floodlight into the dark corners of their character, because I wouldn't judge any of them definitively based on this one decision. But it would be interesting to know.

I say this because I do not believe all the JLP senators signed resignation letters, and the innocent shouldn't be accused of being lackeys and puppets. I go further. I believe there are some among them who would have refused to sign letters like that. Apart from Arthur Williams, I count four other lawyers among them: Johnson-Smith, Malahoo-Forte, Tavares-Finson, and Alex Williams. Surely, one or two of them took either legal or personal offence to the scheme.

Anyway, as I sat to write, Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams have turned up at the Senate to retake their seats. Bangarang! Their actions are hard to understand as anything other than outright defiance of Mr Holness and his wishes.

In other words, they got up this morning, pulled out the expensive suits, shined off the shoes, put on the 'Senate tie', and told their drivers, "Straight to Gordon House!" knowing full well that the party leader wants other men to occupy those seats.

Consider that they could have immediately tendered their resignations upon the judgment being handed down by the court. After all, the point had been proved. But that's not what they did.

Similarly, when Delroy Chuck digested the court's judgment, he could have taken the path that many of his colleagues did, which was to rush out for some popcorn to prepare for the drama called 'Guess Who's Coming to Senate'. But that's not what he did.

Chuck jumped into the fray by writing to the Opposition's parliamentary group explaining that a meeting was urgently necessary. His argument: In our system of government, barring pressing reasons to the contrary, the leader's resignation is now required.

Delroy Chuck is no novice. He is a seasoned attorney and politician surveying the landscape from the precincts of relative political comfort and safety. Therefore, his determination to circulate such a letter with that content speaks volumes. The leader's courtesans immediately recognised the danger and volatility of Chuck's proposal. That is why, instead of allowing that meeting of the parliamentary group to proceed, the JLP Standing Committee invited the parliamentary group to attend. Mr Chuck stayed away.

Out of that Tuesday night meeting emerged a statement that Holness was safe and enjoyed the confidence of all. Next morning, Daryl Vaz took to the airwaves to say that was not accurate. Daryl could have kicked back and enjoyed his breakfast of yam and boiled bananas. But that's not what he did.

The first inclination that his triumph over Audley Shaw was a conditional and provisional endorsement came very soon after the victory. As part of the same general purge that saw Holness deploy these undated pre-signed resignation letters, he had also put up Derrick Smith to dethrone Bobby Montague as chairman.

By actively campaigning for Derrick Smith, Holness recklessly exposed himself to the possibility of defeat immediately after a less-than-resounding victory over Shaw. Then, at the end of the day, Montague beat Holness' candidate by a 2:1 margin. For a freshly victorious leader, it was an unnecessary haemorrhage of political capital and a costly miscalculation.

The growing and open defiance of Holness by party members gives us flashes of illumination into the back alleys of the JLP, where big wheels are turning and pistons are pumping. In my view, this all flows from Bruce Golding's torpedoing of his colleagues when he was hurriedly departing. Golding gifted the leadership to him, but it wasn't his to give, so Mr Holness remains not at all secure.

Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.