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Arthur Williams to act in Jamaica's interest

Published:Friday | October 16, 2015 | 3:20 PMDaraine Luton
Senator Arthur Williams

OPPOSITION Senator Arthur Williams has revealed that he has had a "change of heart" on matters relating to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and has promised to "act in Jamaica's interest" when he votes on three bills aimed at delinking Jamaica from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the Senate.

The Senate yesterday began debate on the three bills five months after they were passed in the House of Representatives and two years after they were first laid in Parliament. Contributing to the debate, former Justice Minister K.D. Knight said that saying no to the three bills would amount to legislators acting "madly" in the face of "compelling" arguments for the country to sign on to the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction.

Knight, who confessed not to have been in favour of Jamaica joining the regional court a decade ago, said the passage of time has led him to the place where he is now fully in support of the CCJ. He urged the Opposition, which has indicated that it would not be voting for the bills, to see through a glass darkly.

He also pointed to the recent unconstitutional action of Opposition Leader Andrew Holness to use pre-signed, undated letters of resignation to secure the dismissal of Williams and Dr Christopher Tufton as a wake-up call for senators not to allow political considerations to influence their vote.

"The possibility existed that an act which was against public policy could have caused two bright minds to have been on the periphery or to have had access to this chamber only from the gallery," Knight said.

He continued: "Think on these things. When something comes home to you, it is real to you. It transcends politics. See through the glass darkly and understand that there are several Jamaicans out there who are traumatised because of this."

Debate strengthened his resolve

Williams, who is scheduled to make his contribution to the debate next week, said that the debate in the Senate thus far has strengthened his resolve on the matter. He, however, refused to say how he would vote.

"I do not act without what I consider to be good reason. I have thought about this matter for many years and I am going to act in the best interest of my country," Williams said.

"I heard K.D. Knight said he has had a change of heart about some things. I, too, have had a change of heart about some things," said Williams, who said three main arguments that were raised in the debate have resonated with him.

"This whole aspect about voting or not voting along party lines; the matter of a referendum; and the way we have proceeded as a country in the past, which I think is wrong," Williams said.

"No hurt to me or perceived hurt to me is going to influence how I vote. That would be acting in my personal interest. I am acting in Jamaica's interest," the opposition senator said.

With one of the bills requiring a two-thirds majority to secure passage, the Government will have to hope all 13 government MPs say yes and at least one opposition senator lines up with it on this issue.