Tue | Nov 30, 2021

Bruce Golding: Pressure MPs on impeachment law

Published:Tuesday | April 20, 2021 | 12:12 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter
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Days after the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sought to isolate Westmoreland Central Member of Parliament George Wright over a smouldering assault scandal, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has urged the public to force lawmakers’ hands in...

Days after the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) sought to isolate Westmoreland Central Member of Parliament George Wright over a smouldering assault scandal, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has urged the public to force lawmakers’ hands in retabling impeachment legislation.

That position is moot amid the disclosure Monday evening that Belmont Road has approved an application from Wright to take a leave of absence from the JLP and that he has been relieved of all party duties.

The governing party said last week that Wright was being sidelined from its parliamentary caucus as public outrage flared over whether he was the aggressor in a viral video pummelling a woman with his fists and a stool.

Wright’s attorney Able-Don Foote has not declared that his client was not the perpetrator in the April 6 video that coincides with police reports filed by both the MP and his partner, Tannisha Singh. The police have dropped the case because the couple have been uncooperative.

Golding, a former leader of the JLP, said that Jamaicans held the key to resurrecting impeachment as a civic defence to breach of trust. He did not pronounce a perspective on the allegations surrounding Wright.

‘It is going to be important for the public to let its voice be heard ... ; it deals with holding public officials to account and, therefore, it’s a question of how much public support can be generated around it,” Golding told The Gleaner on Tuesday.

Unfulfilled promises

Under the Golding administration of 2007, then Justice Minister Delroy Chuck laid a bill in Parliament in 2011 to allow for the impeachment of public officials. The proposed statute eventually fell off the table and was never reintroduced.

Impeachment legislation is one of the unfulfilled promises of Golding’s anointed successor Andrew Holness, who had pledged to take the matter to Parliament for debate and passage.

Golding said that legislation to impeach public officials who ran afoul of the law was included in the Jamaica Labour Party manifesto in the run-up to the 2007 general election.

“I don’t know whether there has been any rethinking, but I certainly believe that it is something that ought to be revisited. It is something that applies to senior officials of government, both elected and non-elected,” he said.

The former prime minister noted that at least two civil-society groups have in the last few days have called for Parliament to put back on its agenda the impeachment legislation. The proposed law was first agreed on by a bipartisan parliamentary committee in 1995.

After shutting down an attempt by the Leader of Opposition Business Anthony Hylton to move a motion last week for the suspension of Wright, Speaker Marisa Dalrymple Philibert is expected to address the issue in the House today.

Case closed

Last Friday, the police said that they had closed the assault case involving Wright.

Singh and Wright, who had made separate reports of abuse against each other to the police, had indicated that they no longer wished to press charges.

Up to late Monday, the parliamentary Opposition was mulling its next move after a motion it sought to introduce last week calling for the suspension of Wright, was blocked by Dalrymple Philibert. The Speaker shut down the motion insisting that there was no evidence of a criminal charge against a member of the house.

Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding told The Gleaner on Monday that he would not be “comfortable” with Wright sitting among his side.

However, he said that claims that Wright was an “independent” member of the house were misleading, noting that his understanding was that the Westmoreland Central MP was still a member of the JLP.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com