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.
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."
- Countries: Jamaica
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