Letters to the Editor

Woe to the cavalier dismissal of the traditions which form the bedrock of our stable society

Friday, February 09, 2018

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Dear Editor,

The Jamaica Council of Churches is concerned about the process being employed to appoint a new chief justice. 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.

Our concerns are 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 would they be measured? Who would do the evaluation?

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 Jamaica Council of Churches' 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. 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 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 Jamaica Council of Churches encourages the prime minister 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 disrepute. 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.

Rev Gary Harriott

Jamaica Council of Churches

Kingston 20

communications.jcc@gmail.com

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