PROMINENT attorney Peter Champagnie complements the discourse on the nomination of senators and calls for constitutional amendments that would essentially cancel existing appointments when a new prime minister or opposition leader takes office.
“What would be most appropriate, given the circumstances, would be a constitutional amendment that would give a new chairman a free hand to nominate people to the Senate, as in the current situation where you have a list of senators from the former were appointed opposition leaders. A new opposition leader [has] Come in and he won’t have a free hand to choose his senators. I think that is the better point of view and I think the independence of the Senate would be better preserved, ”said Champagnie yesterday in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
“Best practices dictate that board members typically step down when a new chairman is appointed. This should also be the case for existing Senate members when a new opposition leader is appointed. If it is otherwise, it feeds on the idea that there is one set of rules favored by politicians and another set of rules for other citizens who participate in civic duties. This perception does not speak for our political system, in which less than half of the registered voters were elected in the last parliamentary elections, ”he added.
The Queen’s Counsel’s recommendation comes after news leaked last Friday that former Manchester Central MP Peter Bunting could not be sworn in as a Senator because there was no written authorization to move.
Bunting was recommended by new opposition leader Mark Golding, following an earlier announcement by former People’s Party (PNP) treasurer, Norman Horne, that he should waive his Senate appointment.
Horne said his decision was based on principle and would allow a new opposition leader to elect his senator after outgoing chairman Dr. Peter Phillips recommended the position.
On Friday, the Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson announced the observer that the letter with the name Horne remained in Parliament and meant that there was no vacancy since he was not officially resigning from his post.
When he was contacted yesterday, he said that observer that he will make a statement on the matter “in due course”.
Horne’s failure to officially resign has sparked renewed calls for constitutional changes. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding asked for a review of the Senatorial Appointment Regulations.
He proposed a return to the pre-independence agreement, which made it possible to revoke appointments to the then Legislative Council following the same procedure that was used to make them.
“It is of immense importance that the constitution of 1959, prior to independence, specifically provided that the appointment of a member of the Legislative Council could be terminated on the advice of the person who so appointed him. That provision was purposely excluded from the 1962 Independence Constitution, ”Golding said in a column published yesterday’s issue of Daily observer.
But Champagnie disagrees, having argued that a return to the pre-independence agreement would jeopardize Senate independence.
“This has given us a lot to think about regarding the current situation with the Senate, which is now very timely due to a certain event. While the point is estimated that [with] the [1959 constitution]… Appointments could be made and withdrawn at any time, I believe with the greatest respect that such a situation would make the Senate independence violent in the strictest sense, ”said Champagnie.
“The best demonstration of Senate independence was in 1983, when Edward Seaga was again unopposed, essentially because the PNP did not vote in the general election and in fact appointed a number of senators who acted independently, with the opposition vote not has been affected to the extent expected.
“I am therefore recommending an amendment whereby as soon as there is a new leader the existing senators step down en bloc to facilitate the decisions or wishes of the new leader and this would avert this kind of situation that we are facing now” , he added.
He said the oft-made argument that the Senate does not act as a fully independent body because of the way appointments are made is controversial.
“In a strict sense, the Westminster system works even when it is [recommended] A degree of independence is expected from the prime minister or opposition leader. That can only go well for the healthy state of our democracy, ”said Champagnie.
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