Government 'dissing' Jamaicans, says Phillips

Editor at Large, South/Central Bureau

Friday, February 23, 2018

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JUNCTION, St Elizabeth — Opposition Leader Peter Phillips accused the Andrew Holness-led Government late Wednesday of treating Jamaicans with “disdain and disregard”, and acting contrary to the spirit of the country's democracy, constitution and traditions.

Phillips's comments came in response to Holness's failure, so far, to permanently appoint Justice Bryan Sykes as chief justice of Jamaica. Justice Sykes was formally appointed on February 1 as acting chief justice with Holness suggesting that his performance would “determine the assumption” of a permanent role.

Uproar resulted with numerous groups, including the Jamaican Bar Association, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, trade unions, churches, so-called civil society groups, and the political Opposition People's National Party (PNP) insisting that Sykes should be permanently appointed, immediately.

They argued that any suggestion that the chief justice was on trial could be perceived as interference by the prime minister and his Administration, in breach of the “fundamental principle” of separation of powers between the political directorate and the judiciary.

In what Phillips described on Wednesday night as an “unprecedented” move, Jamaica's judges earlier this month scolded the prime minister for his comments surrounding the appointment of Sykes and reminded him that judges are not “beholden to the Government of the day”.

Phillips told his audience on Wednesday night that, while Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck had promised last week “that by the end of the week the matter of the chief justice would be settled, last week come and gone, and the problem still remains”.

He argued that “it is obvious that the concerns of the society, of the private sector, bar association, the churches, the trade unions, the Opposition, and the people of Jamaica are being treated with disdain and disregard and that, I tell you, is contrary to the spirit of our democracy. It is contrary to the rules of our constitution and it is contrary to the traditions of the country. I would hope that the ears not so hard of hearing that the prime minister would fail to act”.

The situation was especially grave “because if we are going to grapple with crime and the problem of crime, the integrity of the court system must be preserved”, Phillips said.

“People must be able to have confidence in it because if you don't have confidence in the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the process, then God help Jamaica if people choose to settle the law by themselves without resorting to the courts. And that is the logical consequence of this path [the Government is on],” Phillips added.

The Opposition leader, who was speaking at the formal introduction to PNP workers and delegates of Dr Dwaine Spencer as their new constituency chairman and candidate in waiting for St Elizabeth South Eastern, said there was a clear need to vote the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government from power.

“It is clear that if we going to return the country to sanity we need to have a different Government in place,” he told Comrades gathered in the conference hall of the Junction Guest House.

Phillips said the JLP Government had been elected in February 2016 on the basis of “a whole heap of promises” not kept — particularly in relation to crime and economic growth.

He said the Government was unable to manage, largely because it refused to listen to advice and was increasingly being dragged down by scandals of all sorts.

Spencer, a practising medical doctor in Junction and brother to former Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth North Eastern Kern Spencer, pledged to stay close to the people, represent their interests and work tirelessly to return St Elizabeth South Eastern to the PNP.

Once considered a safe PNP seat, St Elizabeth South Eastern is currently represented by the JLP's Frank Witter, who defeated the PNP's Richard Parchment in February 2016.

PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson said the formal confirmation of Spencer was part of a deliberate strategy to place candidates in position well ahead of the next parliamentary elections, which are constitutionally due in another three years, though the prime minister has the power to send Jamaicans to the polls before then.

Party officers, including Chairman Fitz Jackson and Vice-President Wykeham McNeill, urged party workers and delegates to ensure strong organisation and enumeration campaigns in preparation for elections.




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