Letters to the Editor

Theories on CCJ in search of evidence?

Monday, July 09, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I refer to the Jamaica Observer editorial of July 5, 2018 titled 'New president, old issues for CCJ' which raised several issues, but I do not propose to address them all. There are two issues which piqued my interest:

• the declarations that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is an unproven institution and it “will exist for the foreseeable future under the shadow of the Jamaican and regional politicians who are irrevocably in love with their own sense of power to intervene, adversely, we might add, in the running of local and regional institutions”; and

• the penultimate paragraph of your editorial then asked two rhetorical questions. The last question is as follows: “Or the fact that in our abysmally small geographical space, the overriding need for arms-length transactions and transparency in the justice system is too frequently frustrated by cronyism, school ties, as well as business and familial bonds?”

Firstly, the editorial did not provide any details as to why it is thought the CCJ is an unproven institution. Neither did you indicate the criteria to be applied to determine whether it is a proven institution. Nonetheless, I must disagree with this assertion. The CCJ has been in operation now for approximately 13 years, and there is consensus among jurists that its legal pronouncements are on par with the highest standards of the judiciary. At the end of the day it is the quality of a tribunal's rulings which determines whether it has proven itself or not. In that regard, it is beyond question that the CCJ has proven itself. The fact that the majority of Caricom countries have not joined cannot be interpreted as a failure on the part of the CCJ to prove itself.

Secondly, it appears from your second declaration and your sweeping rhetorical question quoted above that the issue is political interference in the CCJ. I am not sure why you have concluded that this would be, or is in fact an issue. It has previously been reported, even by the Observer, that the financing of the court is impregnable to political interference due to the fact that it is financed exclusively by a trust fund. This fund is administered by a board of trustees and the trustees are not political appointees. Further, the political machinery plays no role in the appointment and removal of the judges of the CCJ, save for the president, whose removal is the subject of a very stringent process. A judge of the CCJ holds office until she or he attains the age of 72 years.

The fact that the judges of the CCJ may belong to the same alma mater as politicians, or even have a social relation with them, is not enough to suggest, much less conclude that the CCJ could operate or operates under the shadow of politicians. If this were true, then none of the judges in Jamaica would be fit to act as judges in Jamaica, since these judges attended the same schools as many politicians and still maintain social relations with them. I do not believe that judges in Jamaica operate under the shadow of politicians, and if there was any doubt this was dispelled when the judges took a principled position recently regarding the appointment of the chief justice.

As a member of the media I believe it is important that the Observer takes extreme care in expressing views about important matters to include the CCJ. There is indeed power in words.

The CCJ has been in operation for some time. If there is evidence that it has been the subject of improper influences, then investigate and provide the public with evidence of same. If there is no such supporting facts forthcoming, then what was written may be nothing more than theories in search of evidence.

Kwame Gordon


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