Were there not innumerable contraventions of Jamaica’s Constitution by successive governments, I too would have assumed a posture of protest against Opposition Leader Andrew Holness. The outrage which followed the Constitutional Court’s ruling against him for the manner in which he ousted Messrs Williams and Tufton from the Senate has been shrouded in shortsightedness and political opportunism.
Criticisms of Mr Holness’ attempt at stonewalling JLP senators are not without merit. What is democracy if not the right of dissent? The calls, however, for his resignation for having acted ‘unconstitutionally’ are mostly disingenuous and cynical. To act unconstitutionally is to violate ‘constitutional provisions’ such as those that comprise the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (2011). Any infringement on the rights of citizens outlined in the Charter is unlawful.
By this definition it stands to reason that both JLP and PNP governments have systematically contravened Jamaica’s Constitution in ways far more damning than Mr Holness’ injudicious flirtations with the law. This of course is not to excuse him. It’s an attempt at widening the discourse with the hope that we’ll take into consideration broader and more recurrent constitutional breaches by the State (governments) and against which our protests must be strong, steadfast and surgical.
According to The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms “…the State has an obligation to promote…respect for, and observance of our…rights and freedoms”, including: “…the right to life…and security”; “the right to equality before the law”; “the right to humane treatment by any public authority”.
The Constitution refers to these as ‘obligations’ of the State; obligations which all governments have in large measure failed to fulfill. Neither have they been mere bystanders, evidenced for instance in the thousands of extra-judicial killings they have committed – with impunity. The ‘disappearance’ of a large amount of the 1966 US$ 28.5 million World Bank Education Loan is a ripple in the ocean of schemes through which the State has violated the constitutional rights of Jamaicans to good education and security, in the interest of party officials and enforcers. What then is new about politicians sacrificing constitutional principles for political expediency?
Critics have roundly condemned the other JLP senators who no doubt signed undated resignation letters as well. But senators’ ‘freedom’ to vote is not proof of a robust democracy at work. For how useful is this ‘freedom’ given that it’s held largely by free-riders who are marshalled by partisan propaganda and the perks of ill-gotten power? This is our politics. Patriotic Jamaicans must not risk being blinded by smokescreens. For as we well know, after the smoke clears, rubble and ash remain. It’s time to shovel away the rubble and wash away the ash.