KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – Leader of the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness, has publicly apologised to Arthur Williams and Dr. Christopher Tufton, following Friday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court that their removal from the Senate was unconstitutional, as well as null and void.
Holness made his apology Sunday, while addressing members of the Boulevard Baptist Church in the Corporate Area.
“Standing here at the moral compass of the nation, it is important to acknowledge that if I have done something wrong, or if my actions have been declared wrong, then I have a duty to apologise to those whom I have wronged, and so …I do so to my colleagues and friends, Arthur and Chris.”
Holness said that legal advice has been sought to address what he described as a thorny issue. Earlier, Holness said he had asked a team of lawyers to research and advise him on the implications on the ruling handed down by the Constitutional Court last Friday.
In a case brought by Williams, the Constitutional Court ruled that the “request and procurement of pre-signed and undated letters of resignation, and letters of authorisation by the leader of the opposition, from persons to be appointed or appointed as senators to the Senate of Jamaica, upon his domination inconsistent with the constitution, contrary to public policy, unlawful, and is, accordingly, null and void.”
Williams, who admitted crafting the letter before he became a senator in 2012, had argued that Holness used the document to remove him from the Senate, because he did not support him in the internal leadership elections in November 2013.
But he said the letters were only to be submitted to the Governor General, if any of the senators did not support the JLP’s position of a referendum, on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The JLP has consistently said there is need for a referendum before Jamaica joins the CCJ making it the final court for the island, instead of the London-based Privy Council.
In its ruling Friday, the three-member Constitutional Court also found that the pre-signed and undated letters of resignation, and letters of authorisation, as well as the manner of their use to effect the resignation of Senators, “are inconsistent with the constitution, contrary to public policy and are, accordingly null and void as to cost.”
In his initial response to the court ruling, Holness said the judgment would not affect the present composition of the Senate, but since then the validity of that assertion has been challenged.
In a statement over the weekend, Holness said, “It was never my intention to act unconstitutionally” and that he, on the advice of attorneys-at-law, including Williams “in whom I had reposed the utmost trust and confidence, as persons competent in advising me on constitutional matters.”
“My overriding consideration, as Leader of the Opposition, was in discharge of my duty to safeguard the spirit and intent of the constitutional provisions which provide for the protection of the Constitution from changes which may not be in the best interest of the Jamaican people. My action therefore, in accepting the advice of the claimant, regarding resignation of Senators, in that manner, was to ensure the effective administration of the government for the people……”
Holness described the situation as a regrettable one that had caused embarrassment to all involved.