In a media release today, the JCC says it is concerned about the process being employed to appoint a new chief justice and cautioned the Prime Minister "against a cavalier dismissal of the tenets of precedence and tradition which form the bedrock of any stable society."
The concern comes after the recent appointment of Supreme Court Judge, Justice Bryan Sykes to 'act as chief justice of Jamaica' after Zaila McCalla retired last month.
The influential church body in its media release said “We are seized of the importance of this critical office, enshrined in the constitution of Jamaica as one of the safeguards to protect the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.”
JCC's concerns add to a list of other concerns raised in the media about Sykes' 'acting' appointment by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
The church body outlined its concerns which it said were predicated on a number of things including, but not limited to the following:
a) that there is a clear vacancy and the country was fully aware of the timeline surrounding the former chief justice's departure;
b) there being no precedence in Jamaica for appointing a chief justice on an acting basis, the Government should have been clearer in the rationale and terms for such a change.
That is to say:
• it ought to have been made abundantly clear how long the acting appointment would last;
• what would be the key performance indicators and how they would be measured?
• Who would do the evaluation?
The JCC said for these questions there would really be no easy answers given the independence of the office.
c) The prime minister's statement that “actions that bring results will determine the assumption of the role of chief justice” raises questions about the prime minister's perspectives regarding the time-honoured tradition of the separation of powers.
“It is the council's view that the appointment of our country's chief justice should never be clothed in any garb that even remotely suggests a catering to the personal pleasure of any member of the executive,” argued the JCC.
“Our country's Chief Justice ought not to be subject to a probationary period since he/she ought not to have been considered for appointment in the first place unless his/her suitability was unquestionably established.”
The JCC pointed out that insecurity of tenure conveyed by “acting until the Governor General is further advised” does not aid in the strengthening of the Office, “especially at a time when our nation continues to demonstrate a deplorable lack of respect for the important symbols of our national life.”
The JCC said it is encouraging Holness to explore more effective ways of establishing systems of accountability for the Office,” if indeed this has been deemed to be lacking over the decades.”
“The Prime Minister ought to steer clear of bringing this high office into unnecessary dispute. We therefore caution the Prime Minister against a cavalier dismissal of the tenets of precedence and tradition which form the bedrock of any stable society and urge him to remedy this situation by taking steps to appoint the Chief Justice without further delay,” it said.
- Countries: Jamaica