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Holness backs down - PM to appoint chief justice 'in short order'

Published:Tuesday | February 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/ Senior Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has bowed to public pressure, announcing yesterday that "in short order", he will appoint a permanent chief justice.

Further, Holness appears to have backed away from statements he made as he sought to defend his decision to appoint Bryan Sykes to act as the country's top jurist.

"Actions that bring results will determine the assumption of the role of chief justice," he said during the swearing-in ceremony for Sykes earlier this month.

But a day after 97 judges spanning three tiers of the judicial system signed a declaration that took issue with the statement, the prime minister has extended the olive branch to the Bench and other stakeholder groups that have frowned up his comment.

"There was never any intention on the part of the executive to supervise or direct the judicial branch," he said in a statement from the Cabinet yesterday.

"The Cabinet respects and reaffirms the principles of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in strengthening the rule of law."

Holness, however, took a jab at what he described as the "unprecedented" declaration signed by the judges, pointing out that other avenues "are available to resolve the matters raised".

"The Government acknowledges the right and duty of the judges to zealously safeguard and preserve their judicial independence and the separation of powers. Notwithstanding, this must be done in such a way that does not undermine another arm of the State, negatively impact the economy or compromise the rule of law," the prime minister noted.

The statement said Cabinet welcomed the judges' concerns about inefficiencies, deficiencies and delays in the justice system and agreed that a lot more needs to be done to ensure timely justice outcomes.

"We accept the observation of the judges that although the judicial branch of government is independent and should remain so, it is also accountable to the public. This statement reaffirms the very important point that all arms of government are accountable to the public," the statement said.

See full statement: Cabinet reaffirms separation of powers in responding to judges