Jamaica Cabinet reaffirms separation of powers in responding to judges

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (third from left) and Cabinet Minister Robert Montague, Dr Horace Chang and Audley Shaw

The Andrew Holnessled Cabinet has reacted to the island’s judges, who on Monday raised serious concern about separation of powers following statements by the Prime Minister about the appointment of Bryan Sykes as acting chief justice.

But the Cabinet says it reaffirms the separation of powers and judicial independence and accountability.


The Cabinet of Jamaica, as the principal instrument of policy, charged with the general direction and control of the government of Jamaica, has responded to a ‘Declaration’ issued by a group of judges. The following is a statement from the Cabinet on the matters raised.

The Government has taken note of the statement made by a group of judges who met on Monday, 12 February 2018 representing a summit of the Judicial Arm of Government.

Administration of

Justice and


  1. The Cabinet welcomes the acknowledgement by the judges that there are concerns about “inefficiencies, deficiencies and delays” in the justice system, and agreed that much more needs to be done for timely justice outcomes.
  2. The Cabinet does not doubt the commitment of our judges, some of whom are amongst the best in the world, to attain a more “efficient and effective” justice system.
  3. 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”[i]. This statement reaffirms the very important point that all arms of Government are accountable to the public. This accountability is ultimately expressed through an election of a Government and the formation of an Executive to execute public policy.
  4. The public policy objective of the Government is “Strengthening of the Rule of Law and Timely Justice Outcomes”. This sets the context and forms the boundary and extent of our interest in the operations of the Justice System. In our governance arrangements, the Judicial arm, specifically the Office of the Chief Justice, shares some administrative responsibility for achieving these outcomes of public policy. This requires, amongst other considerations, that the justice system and the judiciary, like all other public services, must intensify their reform efforts to provide a more efficient, accessible and effective justice service while delivering value for money for taxpayers and development partners.
  5. The Cabinet, therefore, welcomes the declared desirability and support from the judges for, “continued modernisation of the judicial system, continued focus on efficient criminal and civil case management, allowance for scheduled time to write judgments, and the increasing use of technology to enhance efficiency”[ii]. We believe every Jamaican would like to see actions and results in these areas of the Justice System and will hold us accountable.
  6. The Cabinet is well aware and agrees with the judges on the need for greater resources to be allocated to the Justice System. It is the intention of the Government to make further investments in the Justice System to support our number one medium-term strategic priority which is the strengthening of the Rule of Law and Timely Justice Outcomes.  However, the government maintains, that there are further efficiency gains possible through reforms in the use of current levels of funding to the Justice System.

Separation of Powers

and the Independence

of the Judiciary

  1. The Cabinet respects and reaffirms the principles of Separation of Powers and the Independence of the Judiciary in strengthening the Rule of Law. However, it must be noted that judicial efficiency and accountability are also critical to the Rule of Law.
  2. The Declaration by the judges is unprecedented in our governance arrangements, considering that other avenues were 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.
  3. There was never any intention on the part of the Executive to “supervise or direct” the Judicial branch. The Prime Minister in accordance with the Constitution recommended someone to perform the roles and functions of the Chief Justice. It was not intended to have the recommended person act indefinitely. It was always the intention of the Government in short order to appoint the Chief Justice.
  4. In the Prime Minister’s remarks at the Swearing-in Ceremony of Justice Sykes, he made a certain comment which has been taken out of context and used to create a non-existent threat to the Independence of the Judiciary. If those comments caused concerns to the Judicial Arm, the Prime Minister has no hesitation in unconditionally withdrawing the comment. We point to other statements in the Prime Minister’s remarks which would have reassured those concerned that the government has no intention to interfere with Judicial Independence. Further, the Prime Minister along with other members of the Cabinet, have made themselves available in the past to resolve issues of concern to the Judicial Branch. We stand ready to do so again with the Judicial Arm or any office of the State to resolve any matter of concern to them.
  5. Prime Minister shares the fears expressed by our learned judges in their declaration that, “in light of recent developments, some have lost sight of the crucial need to ensure that the three arms of Government function together in a way that is complementary of each other”[iii].
  6. It is the duty and interest of the Prime Minister, as duly elected representative of the people of Jamaica and the Head of the Government of Jamaica, to ensure the efficient and dignified operations of all branches of government in fulfilment of the spirit and intendment of the Constitution. It is not the wish of the Prime Minister or any member of the Cabinet to divide the State or see the duly elected Government or any part thereof undermined or distracted from its critical role of securing the economic independence, social mobility, safety and security of every Jamaican citizen. At an appropriate time and in short order the Prime Minister will recommend the appointment of the Chief Justice.

Corporate partners cut cord with NRA as gun control debate rages

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – The fallout over this week’s shooting rampage at a Florida high school started to take its toll on National Rifle Association’s roster of corporate partners yesterday as a half dozen companies severed marketing ties with the gun advocacy organzation.

Canada’s Trudeau spurs criticism, raises eyebrows on India trip

OTTAWA/NEW DELHI,  (Reuters) – Canadian and Indian officials scrambled yesterday to explain how a convicted Sikh extremist was invited to a New Delhi reception for Justin Trudeau, the latest misstep in the Canadian prime minister’s bumpy eight-day trip to India.

Eight Gupta firms seek insolvency protection in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG,  (Reuters) – At least eight companies owned by the wealthy Gupta family accused of corrupt ties to former president Jacob Zuma, have filed for protection from creditors, documents showed yesterday.

All that jazz: Saudis attend country’s first jazz festival

RIYADH,  (Reuters) – Men and women swayed to music at Saudi Arabia’s first-ever jazz festival yesterday, the second of a three-day outdoor event that showcases the Kingdom’s recent efforts of shedding its conservative image.

U.S. imposes more North Korea sanctions, Trump warns of ‘phase two’

WASHINGTON/SEOUL,  (Reuters) – The United States said yesterday it was imposing its largest package of sanctions to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear missile program, and President Donald Trump warned of a “phase two” that could be “very, very unfortunate for the world” if the steps did not work.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now