Opposition playing politics with the CCJ

Thursday, August 09, 2012    

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FORMER Prime Minister PJ Patterson was at his diplomatic best at the July 30 special sitting of the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

Asked to address the current deadlock between the Government and the Opposition over Jamaica's entry to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Mr Patterson chose not to ruffle any feathers.

"There has to be negotiation," he said. "There has to be give and take. I really don't want to say how I think the negotiations should be conducted, but I think if there is the will to have the things done, it can be done."

Added Mr Patterson: "I don't hear anybody saying that there is not the need for a final court of our own. It is about the process by which we achieve that. I always assume that our leaders are reasonable people, and I hope that reason will prevail."

In the latest event in the drawn-out saga of the CCJ, the Government tabled two Bills in Parliament late last month signalling its intention to effectively seek to recognise the CCJ as Jamaica's final appeal court, thus replacing the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom Privy Council, one of the last remaining vestiges of colonialism.

The problem, though, is that the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is insisting that a referendum is needed to settle the matter.

While the Opposition has long held that position, it represents a step away from that proposed in December 2010 by former JLP leader Mr Bruce Golding when he was prime minister.

At the time, Mr Golding put forward the idea of Jamaica establishing its own final appeal court as an option to the Privy Council.

"We wish to consider our own final court of appeal. We would respectfully wish that it is something for which due consideration be given," Mr Golding said while closing the debate in Parliament on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

That proposal has taken a fair bit of flak, including in these columns. However, what it suggested to us was that the JLP had accepted that its reasons for its strong opposition to the CCJ in the past had grown irrelevant, given that the British authorities have clearly stated that cases from the Caribbean are an unwelcome burden.

Based on comments on the issue made since then by JLP spokesmen, we had drawn the conclusion that the party had a change of heart. However, in recent weeks, the Opposition has been holding hard to its insistence on a referendum.

Mr Patterson declined to say it at the Monday Exchange, therefore we will say for him: the Opposition is simply playing politics. For what else can explain this position?

We don't believe that Jamaica should continue to drag out its full acceptance of the court. Those who doubted that it would have been efficient and provide quality judgements now have evidence to dissuade them from that view.

Joining the court in all its jurisdictions in this year, when we are observing our 50th year of political Independence from Britain, would make a strong statement of our confidence in the quality of Caribbean jurisprudence.

As we have said before, we strongly believe that if we are ever to shake the debilitating psychological grip of hundreds of years of colonialism and slavery, our own systems and symbols must take pride of place.





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