Prime Minister Holness vs the judiciary

Franklin Jonhston

Friday, February 16, 2018

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This is a fight we do not need, but our prime minister seems to have a penchant for self-harm. His heart is in the right place, but to talk loudly is not strength, nor is to make headlines: “I meant it!”

Recall Andrew Holness played with the intention of our constitution by his unsigned letter to dis-appoint senators, and now his waltz with the chief judge. He climbed up his ego weeks ago, appointed an acting chief justice, and on Wednesday fell to Earth with a new decision: “At an appropriate time, and in short order, the prime minister will recommend the appointment of the chief justice.” Andrew must leave what don't trouble him and complete job# 1: Make us safe and prosper Jamaica.

Holness gave the judiciary a bloody nose and upended all civics lessons on checks and balances — executive, judiciary, parliament, and set up the governor general. He wants to judge a chief justice's performance — nonsense! Some of us draft criteria and sit on panels here and abroad to select CEOs, presidents, other heads, and know Andrew does not have the expertise or experience. He is the first fruit of our handover of politics to sons and daughters, but he behaves badly.

What motive to appraise a man who does not report to him? He controls executive and Parliament, so is this a power grab at the judiciary to create a quasi-dictatorship, or to show pesky judges who is boss? He has unnecessarily upset the nation twice this year. We have no public data to say he is not a bully as he seems swift to anger. He is sincere, but does not know that he does not know, and self-harms so a nation suffers by his incontinence.

Consider this: None of our public services work well, yet no minister (all report to him) is “acting”. So to use his “last mile” power to bully Justice Sykes with menaces may be deliberate. Politicians who mess with a career public servant's earned and justified promotion will regret it. Selah!

So can one man fix the justice system? We know the police need to raise their game to catch criminals, so judges can try them. Will Andrew try this “acting” stunt with the commissioner to be? Our judiciary is reason, acumen with backbone, and to suborn it undermines democracy. A prime minister's power to recommend appointment is a final hurdle to catch the unworthy; it must not be used as a “sword of Damocles” to intimidate a hapless office bearer by threatening his job wickedness.

We want Andrew to succeed and be the best prime minister, but he makes it hard for us to trust him. The longer prosperity takes, the shorter time we here have to enjoy it, and he wastes time. Sir, pick your fights, and trust me, the chief justice's performance is not a cross to die on.

So, who put him up to this? Justice Minister Delroy Chuck? Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte? Who did the “what if” analyses to guide him, or was it just “Yes, Prime Minister”? Who said this was a precedent? Fire them! We need disruptive development, but Andrew must learn to go with the flow but never lose focus on job #1. If you can't catch murderers why bother the judges? We feel Andrew's motive was good, so to suborn our chief justice was an unintended consequence, and a swift reversal would end it but ego is a bitch! We told UK callers it was overreach, soon corrected; not constitution crisis. But was it a “power grab” to intimidate judges, or “a smoke grenade” to hide some bad things? So, what's to be done?

We shudder to think Governor General Patrick Allen was willingly complicit in this abuse of power? Why not dissuade his Adventist brother? The Queen must be having kittens! Still, let's put the best spin on it. To get the judiciary to up its game is easy, but not cheap. Justice Sykes has title but he can't fire a judge. Andrew can appoint and fire ministers so why do murders increase and no minister is fired? Why no growth and no one fired? Hands off our chief justice!

Fixing the judicial system needs a professional take on what's to be done — a transformational chief justice to inspire and monitor the core and incentives for targets met. It needs systems, resources — courthouses, technology, paralegal, amanuensis input, and a results-driven executive, logistician, scheduler as chief operating officer (COO). Sir, lives depend on quality jurisprudence every day, so a chief justice must be on the ball and needs a COO to manage the islandwide administration.

Andrew now has the baton in pursuit of what we dubbed the “prosperity agenda” years ago. So run your leg well and get us to the next stage. He has two priorities: growth with jobs and crime control. Both feed each other in a virtuous spiral cumulating in sustainable prosperity. Sir, kick butt to get growth and leave the judges to Minister Chuck.

But why outsource growth to Michael Lee-Chin and not lead personally? Sir, we have no metrics — jobs, industrial, and farm output, exports quarterly; so how can we judge you? Sir, growth is no greater now than when Peter Phillips was fixing the economic fundamentals. Why? What jobs, production can we expect in 2018? Will our gross domestic product per capita (now US$9,199) be like Barbados (US$25,500) come 2020? Andrew is serious about crime, and we want him to be a great prime minister, so help us to help you. Stay on message, Andrew, no more gaffes for 2018; appraise your ministers' performance and fire the wankers. Meet your targets for security, growth, all will be forgiven, and we rejoice as one. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston, DPhil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and teaches logistics and supply chain management at the Mona School of Business and Management at The University of West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or




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