November 29, 2009

Jamaica 'stripped'

Published: Sunday | November 29, 2009

Source: Jamaica Gleaner

AN AUTHOR of the country's Constitution has warned that Jamaicans might no longer enjoy the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

David Coore, the first chairman of the People's National Party (PNP) and one of the authors of the Constitution, has warned that the United Kingdom Parliament has changed the structure of the Privy Council and this could strip Jamaicans of the right of appeal.

"The Constitution had committed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the country's final court of appeal. The English Parliament has made such a radical change by amending the law establishing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and which has just come into effect, that it can be legitimately contended that the Privy Council court which was put into our Constitution has been superseded by a new court, which, though bearing the same name, is substantially different from that which existed in 1962," Coore said.

He was speaking at the People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO) 40th anniversary awards banquet at the Terra Nova Hotel last Thursday.

Serious problem

Said Coore: "This could raise a serious problem of constitutional law, with far-reaching consequences, because our Constitution committed to something called the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but that to which we committed ourselves no longer exists in the form that it did when we made that commitment.

"It may well be the case that there is no longer anything to which our Constitution provision shall apply. The far-reaching consequences of that could be obvious," Coore said, as he called for the Government to replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice.

This issue has been a major source of disagreement between the PNP and the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

The PNP is adamant that Jamaica should abandon the Privy Council, but the JLP has argued that the people should decide the fate of the court by way of a referendum.

"We are in the ridiculous position that we are paying our share of the cost of the CCJ but only able to access its original jurisdiction, which is confined to trade disputes," Coore said.

He added: "We are in the ridiculous situation of paying for a court that we do not use, while claiming to be able to use a court that regards us as an unwanted burden and may no longer exist."

Honour commitments

Coore told the PNPYO that it should work closely with Generation 2000 (G2K), the young professionals' affiliate of the JLP, to pressure their parent parties to honour commitments for constitutional reform.

"Both youth organisations should join together to insist that their respective parties take the issue of constitutional reform seriously and act upon it," Coore said.

"There are many aspects of our Constitution that need to be rectified and brought into the 21st century," he said, pointing to removing the British queen as head of state as one desirable amendment.

"It is ridiculous for us in the 21st century to have as our head of state, a hereditary monarch of another country, to which we need to have a visa to enter and special permission to remain," Coore said.

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