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JAMAICA | Holness refuses to bow despite GG's intervention in row with Judiciary

Featured Despite the intervention of Governor General  Sir Patrick Allen in the controversy surrounding the appointment of acting Chief Justice Brian Sykes, the Prime Minister has remained resolute in his decision to maintain Syke's acting position. Despite the intervention of Governor General Sir Patrick Allen in the controversy surrounding the appointment of acting Chief Justice Brian Sykes, the Prime Minister has remained resolute in his decision to maintain Syke's acting position.
KINGSTON, FEB. 22, 2018 - Despite the intervention of  the  Governor General in the controversy surrounding the appointment of an acting Chief Justice, by convening a tripartite meeting among representatives of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the Government there is yet to be an acceptable outcome from the Prime Minister.
 
The meeting followed a written request from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and was convened to address recent developments and to find a way forward over the current imbrogolio over the appointment of Justice Bryan Sykes as acting chief justice.
 
There was however, no indication of any concrete outcome from the meeting in relation to the discontinuation of the acting appointment of Justice Brian Sykes.
 
In a release media release, the Governor General said the meeting was intended to explore ways in which each of the branches of government could collaborate and support the smooth operation of the governance structure and provide the best service to the people of Jamaica.

The governor general sought to allay anxieties that the public may have, giving the assurance that "our democracy is alive and well".

In his comments, Holness reiterated that the executive had no intention of undermining or diminishing the role of the judiciary.

He told the meeting: "I do not take lightly the exercise of any authority vested in the Office of the Prime Minister to ensure the effective and dignified running of the Jamaican state. My primary interest is to ensure that all of Government works in the best interest of the people and that public resources are efficiently used and properly accounted for by those who use them."

He said that his primary interest is to “ensure that all of government works in the best interest of the people and that public resources are efficiently used and properly accounted for by those who use them.”

The judiciary however remains firm in their position, and members of the legal profession are maintaining that the Prime Minister comments in relation to the acting position is unconstitutional and reeks of political interference.

The Executive was represented by the Prime Minister, the ministers of Finance, National Security, Justice and the Attorney General. 
 
The Legislature was represented by the Speaker of the House of  Representatives and the President of the Senate, while Acting Chief Justice Brian Sykes, the President of the Court of Appeal as well as the senior and other puisne judges represented the Judiciary.
 
The Judiciary declared that the three branches of the Government were "separate but not separated, equal and independent" in their core functions, while acknowledging that all branches had to work together.  
 
They agreed that the meeting allowed for misunderstandings to be cleared up on major issues of concern, in a manner that does not bring the judiciary into disrepute and kept it beyond reproach.

Holness drew criticism after saying at Sykes' swearing-in ceremony that “actions that bring results will determine the assumption of the role of chief justice.”

Members of the judiciary who met last Monday forcing courts islandwide to be on lockdown, described the remarks as “unfortunate” and sought a retraction and a public acknowledgement from Holness that the chief justice does not report to, nor is answerable to him.

The Cabinet had early indicated  in a statement that “There was never any intention on the part of the executive to 'supervise or direct' the judicial branch. The prime minister, in accordance with the constitution, recommended someone to perform the roles and functions of the chief justice. It was not intended to have the recommended person act indefinitely. It was always the intention of the Government, in short order, to appoint the chief justice.”

The judges however, made their position clear in a press release following their one day protest.

The Judges, 97 in all,  in an unprecedented declaration, said they had found it necessary to publicly register their “grave concern” regarding some statements made by the prime minister following the appointment of Justice Sykes as acting chief justice.

“These concerns relate to the prime minister's explanation of the rationale for recommending an acting instead of a permanent appointment to the post of chief justice. We wish to make it clear that we do not speak on behalf of the acting chief justice, and are acting independently of him and without his concurrence in indicating our disquiet. We make no comment in respect of the ongoing debate surrounding the question whether the acting appointment of Chief Justice Sykes is unconstitutional, illegal or otherwise invalid,” the judges said.

In the meantime, the nation awaits the opposition's promise to take the matter to ther Privy Council for a ruling.

Noted attorney -at-law Bert Samuels, writing in the February 16 edition of the Gleaner observed that Jamaica was not a Parliamentary democracy. "Rather, we have a constitutional arrangement where that document is supreme. So, when laws passed by our Parliament, or action, taken by the executive (prime minister), are out of line with the Constitution, its guardian, the courts, can strike the blunder down," Samuels said.

He pointed to a 1975 Privy Council ruling, which "contemplated this misguided approach and declared in the case of Hinds, when the Gun Court Act was challenged, in the words of Lord Diplock, that: "A breach of a constitutional restriction is not excused by the good intention with which the legislative power has been exceeded ..." Hence,  "the constitutional breach by Prime Minister Holness is not excused by any good intention he may have entertained when he made the full appointment of Justice Sykes indefinite, uncertain, and subject to his own supervision."

Last modified onSaturday, 24 February 2018 07:30
  • Countries: Jamaica

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