Sat | Sep 30, 2023

An unnecessary ministry

Published:Friday | January 21, 2022 | 12:08 AM


The facts are inescapably clear that Jamaica has long been in need of constitutional and other legal reforms. However, the recent reshuffling of the Cabinet by Prime Minister Andrew Holness has seen the pouring of new wine into many dirty vessels, hands that have been tainted with a history of corruption and a reputation of ineptitude spanning several ministerial appointments. The latest addition to this conundrum is the creation of the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs to be headed by the former Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte.

Now, it is important for us to note that the areas of focus of this new ministry are not new areas. Minister Malahoo Forte is to have direct oversight of the Law Revision Secretariat, the Legal Reform Department and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, all portfolios formerly existing within the Ministry of Justice. The works needed to be done in these reassigned areas were not too onerous to the extent that they were unattainable under the Ministry of Justice. Thus, what we now have happening is the unnecessary creation of a ministry which will invariably lead to a waste of resources and public funds; it is full time that our existing structures become efficient.


If it is that the ministry is unnecessary for the work it is tasked with accomplishing, it is safe to say that there could very well be an ulterior motive for its creation. One must understand that the binding fabric of a democratic society such as Jamaica is its Constitution. The prime minister is a three-time constitutional offender, first strike was with the pre-signed resignation letters of members of his party, two was with the temporary appointment of the chief justice amid much public outcry and a strike from members of the judiciary. Strike three was with his insistence to push ahead with an unconstitutional NIDs bill. Paramount to the conversation at hand is that the last two offences were committed or at the very least ought to be reasonably presumed to have been committed upon the advice of the former attorney general.

Based on past utterances, it would appear that the former attorney general is of the view that in the fight against crime certain constitutional rights and freedoms must be necessary collateral. This view is dangerous and especially in a society where said rights and freedoms are already being abused by agencies and agents of the State. One will recall that the decision of the Supreme Court in the NIDs ruling did not sit well with the former attorney general, who in her sectoral presentation that year made certain remarks that were potentially contemptuous.

As guardian of the Constitution, the court needs to be vigilant of this ministry as it may very well be a means to an undesirable end rather than what it purports to be. The work is necessary but the ministry is not.