December 11, 2009



Source: Jamaica Observer

Published: Friday, December 11, 2009

IF former prime minister Michael Manley were alive, he would have opted for the Jamaica having a new final appellate court, a leading academic has suggested.

Professor Stephen Vasciannie, in delivering the eighth Michael Manley lecture at the University of the West Indies yesterday, argued that Manley would have grown tired of having the United Kingdom Privy Council as its final appellate court and instead would have opted for the Caribbean Court of Justice to play that role.

"I take the opportunity to say that the logic of Michael Manley's views on the sovereign equality of states and his devotion to self-reliance both suggest that he would now think that the time for the Caribbean Court of Justice is long overdue," Vasciannie said to applause from the packed graduate lecture theatre at the Sir Alister McIntyre building.

"In recent months, there have been signals that the Privy Council is impatient with our continued reliance on them as our final appellate court. At the same time, the salient objections that have been raised about the Caribbean Court of Justice have been fully addressed; the Court is operating, and it has given judgments of the highest authority and erudition," Vasciannie said.

The former deputy solicitor general and present principal of the Norman Manley Law School said that there appears to be a lack of confidence on the part of Jamaica in not wanting to make the switch.

"The reluctance to move towards the Caribbean Court of Justice on the part of Jamaica can now really be attributed to our lack of self-confidence as a people. As both President de la Bastide and Lord Hoffmann agree, the final appellate court of any jurisdiction is called upon to make policy choices in making decisions, especially in areas pertaining to individual rights, and the rights of persons vis-a-vis the State," he said.

"These policy choices are best made by judges who have intimate knowledge of the socio-economic and cultural environment from which the cases emanate.

"Consider the proposed Charter of Rights: Both the Executive and the Legislature in Jamaica have been responsible for the terms of the re-draft of our fundamental rights and freedoms, taking into account local circumstances. By what line of reasoning may we now conclude that our judges are not as good as other judges in determining what these rights mean in the same local circumstances?" Vasciannie asked.

The lecture, which attracted members of the top brass of the Jamaican legal fraternity as well as influential members of the opposition People's National Party, was based upon the theme 'Jamaica and the World: Issues of International Law'.

In hailing the work of Manley, who led Jamaica as prime minister from 1972 to 1980 and again from 1989 to 1992, Vasciannie said that the former economist and trade unionist -- by virtue of the power of his words and his convictions -- left an "indelible mark on the political history of Jamaica".

"Michael Manley is still living in our world of contested ideas. His works of scholarship still provide challenges, still cause you to hold on to the edges of your now receding hairline as you contemplate ideas that you first noted in adolescence," Vasciannie said.

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