THE Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Central Executive yesterday mandated the party to file an action in the Constitutional Court seeking a declaration on the constitutionality of the NHT (Special Provisions) Act, which was passed in Parliament last week.
The Act gives the Government the right to draw down funds totalling $45.6 billion from the Trust until March 31, 2017. It was specifically brought to Parliament to stave off any lawsuit associated with the drawdown, announced on February 12, and was passed in both Houses of Parliament last week and is now awaiting the Governor General's signature.
The JLP, in a release last night, said that the decision by its Central Executive was based on a motion moved by Dr Horace Chang, Opposition spokesperson on housing, water and the environment.
The motion stated: "The Legal and Constitutional Committee of the Jamaica Labour Party questions the constitutionality of the Act in that it seeks to breach property rights protected under the Constitution."
The Central Executive said that JLP Leader Andrew Holness, a NHT contributor, will file the action in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition as well as a NHT contributor. However, the party will not be applying for an injunction.
"The JLP holds true to its philosophy of being a responsible Opposition. We believe that in matters as fundamental as these, that is the property rights of Jamaicans, the status of the NHT, and the scope of the property rights under the Constitution, deserve ventilation before the courts," Holness said.
He added that the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, which was passed in 2011 after years of advocacy and debate, must be jealously guarded and defended if the rights of all Jamaicans are to be protected.
The JLP's decision follows lobby group Citizens Action for Principle and Integrity's filing of a constitutional motion, on Thursday, challenging the constitutionality of the Bill that clears the way for the Government's withdrawal from the fund. The group will also be asking an injunction blocking the drawdown of the Trust.
A JLP source told the Jamaica Observer last night that the party will not be seeking an injunction to block the drawdown of the first tranche of $11.4 billion, as it does not intend to do anything that would affect the Government reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the end of the month. However, the party says it is determined to protect the constitutional rights of the contributors through the courts.