Sun | Sep 26, 2021

They should go! - Analyst says opposition senators should resign and give Phillips clean slate

Published:Tuesday | March 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Mark Golding, leader of opposition business in the Senate, says members of that side will be meeting to discuss their positions with the impending appointment of a new opposition leader, but commentator, Dr Paul Ashley believes that's not necessary and all eight should resign.

Dr Peter Phillips was on Sunday acclaimed the president of the People's National Party, replacing Portia Simpson Miller and will take over from her on April 2 as opposition leader.

Ashley said by that date, too, he would expect the opposition senators recommended by the outgoing leader after the 2016 general elections to go.

"The current set of opposition senators should tender their resignation and new leader of the opposition would be unfettered and free to reappoint them if he so desires," said Ashley.

Under the Constitution, senators, and in this case opposition ones, are appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the opposition leader. Once appointed, they cannot be removed unless they resign, the life of Parliament ends - usually when a general election is called - or if their absence from the House breaches the rules of the Senate.

"The senators are always appointed by the leader of the Opposition. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to infer that if the leader of the opposition changes, then he should be free to appoint his new senators. The same would be applicable to a change in the prime minister," Ashley argued.

However, Golding noted that there was no established convention that would guide how the situation is handled. But, according to him, the opposition members will have to come to a position, even though he has had talks with "with one or two senators".

"This is something which we will discuss among ourselves and, perhaps, with the incoming leader of the Opposition to see what position we feel is right and in accordance with the Constitution."

He added that in a "couple weeks" an official view will be formed because "we would want to do the right thing".


'No obligation for them to resign'


Doing the 'right thing' will be a matter of conscience, only, insists Dr Lloyd Barnett, the constitutional lawyer who represented Arthur Williams in his successful case against Andrew Holness' use of undated but pre-signed resignation letters to oust him from the Senate in 2013.

"There is no legal obligation on them to resign and there is no convention which has been established in Jamaica," he told The Gleaner. "So, it therefore becomes a personal choice and decision by each senator as to whether they would or not. I imagine that it would depend on whether the leader of the Opposition wishes them to resign based on Jamaica practice."

Phillips has not commented on the issue, and in a media interview following his acclamation on Sunday said issues such as a new slate of spokespersons would be considered later on.