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Use of pre-signed letters is a 'degradation'

Published:Wednesday | July 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

LAWYERS representing the Attorney General's Department (AGD) in a case brought against Opposition Leader Andrew Holness by ousted Senator Arthur Williams yesterday cited a Malaysian case in which a judge blasted the use of undated resignation letters among legislators, saying they were against public policy and the liberty of lawmakers.

The Malaysian court was giving its decision in a case in which the complainant claimed he was required by his political party to sign a letter of undertaking and an undated resignation letter as a precondition for being nominated as a candidate to represent the party. When the complainant later resigned from the party, the letter was used to remove him from the Parliament.

"To recognise such an arrangement would amount to a degradation of the honourable House, which is the fountain of democracy in our country," the Malaysian court found.

Carlene Larmond, director of litigation at the AGD, citing the Malaysian case, made no comment on the case between Holness and Williams, but underscored that the Parliament of Malaysia, like the Jamaican Parliament, is bicameral and is based on the Westminster model of government.

"We wish to highlight a number of issues for the court's consideration in applying this judgment to the case now being considered," Larmond said in her submission before the Constitutional Court yesterday.

The reference to the Malaysian court ruling came a day after two of the High Court judges hearing the case also raised questions about whether the creation of the undated resignation letters for appointment to the Senate placed the interest of political parties ahead of the national good.

The case between the two men centres around an undated resignation letter Williams signed and gave to Holness the day he was appointed to the Senate in 2012.

Williams was removed from the Senate last year after Holness signed the letter, dated it, and delivered it to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.

Williams is seeking a declaration from the court for his removal to be declared null and void on the grounds that the use of the letter was for an unlawful purpose.

His attorneys have argued that Holness' use of the letter was unconstitutional and not in keeping with its intended purpose.

However, Georgia Gibson Henlin, who is representing Holness, contended that the use of the letters was valid and constitutional and argued that the opposition leader was not limited in his use of the pre-signed and undated letters.

She told the court that Holness acted on the authority given to him by Williams to use the letters as deemed necessary.

Justices Marva McDonald-Bishop, Courtney Daye, and David Batts, who are hearing the case, have reserved their decision.