AS WE GET READY FOR THE CCJ...
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Source: Jamaica Observer Editorial
It would appear, from yesterday's lead story in our sister title, that the country is on the cusp of replacing the Judicial Committee of the London-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
According to National Security Minister Dwight Nelson, Cabinet will make a decision to accept or reject the CCJ as the country's highest judicial authority once it receives a report on its status from the parliamentary sub-committee that was set up to examine the issue.
Given the recent train of developments, including the complaint by Lord Nicholas Phillips, president of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, that appeals from countries like Jamaica are taking up too much of his colleagues' time, we don't suppose the Government has any option but to log on to the CCJ.
This, in principle must be right, representative as it is of yet another step towards true independence.
However, while we believe that the time has come for us to fully embrace the CCJ, we are rather perturbed about the narrowness of the context in which the debate seems to be taking place.
For it seems that the CCJ is being sold on the perceived strength of its capacity to resolve the contentious issue of crime through the reintroduction of the death penalty as opposed to its significance as a symbol of the coming of age of a region which has made significant strides in its struggle to shake the unfortunate colonial legacy which has held it back in so many ways for so many years.
We believe more time and energy need to be spent on this aspect of the matter as we get ready as a country and a region to embrace the CCJ.
And much needs to be done by way of educating our people about the shift away from what for many represents the only true shot at attaining justice within the context of the under-staffed, resource-starved ramshackle local tiers of our legal system.
But, as we have often argued in this space, while we have concerns about the pace and inadequacies of the local justice system, this newspaper has never doubted the quality and integrity of jurisprudence in the Caribbean. Neither do we share the fear of opponents of the CCJ that the court could be tainted by political interference.
However, we can't ignore the fact that the Privy Council has, through its rulings over many decades, reversed many an injustice that would have otherwise been allowed to wreck the lives of ordinary Jamaicans who have been victims of local cronyism on the part of those in charge of various institutions here.
These Jamaicans will tell you that they had never viewed the local talent here as anything but obstacles enroute to the Privy Council where they expected to get justice in the long run.
It would be a great misfortune if the CCJ were to be similarly perceived.