Jamaica to decide on CCJ membership in April
The Jamaica Parliament will decide on April 28 whether or not Jamaica should join the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Appeal as its final court replacing the London-based Privy Council.
Government has tabled three bills, namely an act to make provision for the implementation of the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice and for connected matters.; An act to amend the Constitution of Jamaica to provide for the replacement of appeals to Her Majesty in Council with new provisions for appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica’s final appellate court, and for connected matters and an Act to amend the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act.
The Portia Simpson Miller administration needs a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament to secure their passage. While it has sufficient votes to ensure passage in the Lower House, it would need the support of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to secure passage in the Senate.
The JLP has already said it favours a referendum on the issue and will not support the government in the move towards the CCJ, which was established in 2001 to replace the Privy Council as the region’s final court.
Jamaica is also a signatory to the original jurisdiction of the Court, but like most other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries it is not a signatory to the Appellate Jurisdiction.
The CCJ also acts as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.
On Tuesday, government and opposition legislators made contributions to the debate with both sides sticking to their original positions.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller in winding up the debate dismissed as impractical the suggestion by the Opposition for Jamaica to have a local final court of appeal at this time.
“Let me say that any member of this House who is not prepared to record his or her positive vote in favour of these bills is not acting in the best interest of the people of Jamaica.”
She said the bills should receive support from lawmakers unless the procedure being used in introducing the bills was unconstitutional or were harmful to the Jamaican people.
She said the vote on April 28 will provide an opportunity for legislators “to place ourselves on the right side of history, or to be condemned to the dust heap of history concerning this matter”,
But Opposition Leader Andrew Holness said he wanted Jamaica to understand that the JLP’s position is not that the island “must be with the Privy Council in perpetuity. That is not our position”.
He told legislators that the JLP was also not supporting criticisms on the quality of the persons serving in the justice system.
“We don’t join any such criticisms. We believe in our local jurists and our local jurisprudence,” noting that 40 former colonies that have left the Privy Council, except for Guyana, Barbados and Belize, have all established their own final court of appeal.
“If you are going to look to what has happened to other countries in the past who have left the Privy Council, then clearly the weight of history is that if we leave, we should establish our own court,” he said, questioning whether a simple majority or two-thirds majority in Parliament could establish an appellate court that protects it under the Constitution.
“When you establish a court here and that court goes to review a decision of the appeal court, there must be no question as to whether or not that court was rightfully established. Right now, these bills don’t answer that,” he added.
Holness accused the government of using the CCJ bills as a distraction from the real issues facing the country.
“I don’t hear Jamaicans saying that we need the CCJ.”