Why Arthur Williams Should Break Rank On The CCJ

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The House of Representatives made history yesterday by taking the monumental step to cut ties with the UK based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Unfortunately, the vote was marred by the decision of the 21 Opposition MPs who, in a show of contempt for local and regional judges, courts and jurisprudence, effectively voted to remain with the Privy Council. The irony of that vote has not missed us  here at Talk Jamaica Radio. Andrew Holness essentially led the party of Alexander Bustamante, a champion of national, and consequently regional, independence, in retaining a symbol of a tortured and problematic colonial past. Any true proponent of nationalism should be ashamed of Andrew Holness.

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The bills now move to the Senate of Jamaica where a showdown looms. The government requires the vote of a single Opposition Senator to meet the 2/3 threshold prescribed by the Constitution of Jamaica. In light of the “letter-gate” saga, all eyes now turn to Senator Arthur Williams. We urge Mr. Williams to put into active practice what he went to Court for – the independence and integrity of the Jamaican Senate. For symbolic, as well as practical, reasons, the crucial vote must be Mr. Williams. To be sure, we are not convinced that all eight Opposition Senators are united in Opposition to the Caribbean Court of Justice. In fact, we see moderates such as Senators Kamina Johnson Smith and Marlene Malahoo Forte appreciating the relevance and necessity of establishing this court. Notwithstanding that, we do not expect them to demonstrate the courage of their convictions on this occasion. That is a disappointing realization. However, political realities cannot be ignored. Holness has proven himself capable of retaliation against those who displease him. The goodly Senators would be foolhardy to provoke retaliation considering they may very well rely on his largesse after the next general elections, assuming they intend to make it back into the Upper House.

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This brings us to Arthur Williams. The second generation Labourite must be acutely aware that his future in the Labour Party under Andrew Holness is effectively bleak. The odds of him being reappointed to the Senate in a JLP seat are slim, and if the past is anything to go by, Holness will not readily allow him to occupy any substantive posts in that party. We would humbly submit to Mr. Williams that there is no shame in trading that critical vote for a board chairmanship, an independent Senate seat, an ambassadorship – as suggested by the Gleaner’s Gary Spaulding, or even a post in a PNP Cabinet. This of course assumes the PNP still forms the government after 2016, an assumption we are quite prepared to make. Mr. Williams has a chance to prove that our politicians can overcome the insidious hurdle of baseless and banal opposition. He can breathe life and meaning into the words of the Court of Appeals, and in so doing establish, beyond just theory, that the Senate works in the best interest of the people of Jamaica, and cannot and ought not to be held captive to the whims and fancy of a party that has lost its way on the matter of regionalism. We submit that the Jamaica Labour Party’s skepticism of CARICOM, but willingness to embrace foreign ideals, judges and jurisprudence offends the struggle to be independent of the shadow of the United Kingdom.

By himself, Arthur Williams can set off a catalyst across this region. Talk Jamaica urges him to do just that. We cannot think of a more noble cause for which to cast that single vote.

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