October 22, 2009


Source: Jamaica Observer

Thursday, October 22, 2009

OPPOSITION Leader Portia Simpson Miller has signalled thePNP's willingness to support the enactment of a new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms but is urging the Government to put the legislative foundation in place for Jamaica to become a part of the Caribbean Court of Justice at the same time.

Simpson Miller said while the Opposition was heartened that the Government has given a firm signal that they are seriously considering having the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final Court of Appeal, both should be done concurrently.

"That is what we are asking for; that the move to put the legislative foundation in place for the Charter of Rights and the Caribbean Court of Justice should be undertaken at one and the same time. I am relying on the word of the prime minister in this matter," Simpson Miller said.

On the matter of having the CCJ as Jamaica's final appeal court, Simpson Miller said the Opposition had been reluctant to give approval for the provisions of the new Charter to be interpreted by the Privy Council in London, England.

She said there were several other and even more powerful reasons for Jamaica to have the CCJ as its final appeal court, which the Opposition will outline further when that legislative process begins.

Last week Prime Minister Bruce Golding, in opening the debate on the Charter, said though the enactment of the new Charter had been "long in process... and slow in progress", all efforts would be made to pass the provision before Parliament prorogues in March next year.

The new charter, which has been the subject of much debate since the 1990s, is expected to replace Chapter III of the present constitution and has the support of both parties.

A new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms was one of three major recommendations made by a 1995 Joint Select Committee. The report which was adopted by Parliament also recommended that Jamaica take on a republican form of government by removing Britain as its monarch and have its own indigenous president as head of state. It also suggested that Jamaica delink from the judicial committee of the Privy Council and accept the Caribbean court as its final appellate body.

Several former British colonies in the Caribbean are also working through their own constitutional issues to remove the UK-based Privy Council as their court of last resort for criminal and civil matters, and substitute it with the CCJ. The CCJ is to also have original jurisdiction in interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, under which regional countries will transform their trade and functional cooperation bloc into a seamless economic space - the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The establishment of the CCJ as Jamaica's final court will require either a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament and/or the winning vote in a referendum.

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