PM suggests local final appeal court
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY Observer
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
PRIME Minister Bruce Golding yesterday raised the possibility of Jamaica establishing its own final appeal court as an option to the London-based Privy Council or the controversial Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), but held that his administration still believed that any decision on the matter must be put to a referendum.
"We wish to consider our own final court of appeal. We would respectfully wish that is something for which due consideration to be given," Golding said while closing debate in the Parliament on the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms which will replace Chapter III of the present Constitution.
"It is something we wish to consider in great detail and in earnest. We believe we have the judicial experience, we believe we have the maturity to do it," Golding said.
The prime minister raised the point while rejecting suggestions from the Opposition People's National Party that the matter of a final appellate court should be settled along with the passage of the Charter. According to Golding, his administration had always held that "the adoption of a final court should be put to Jamaicans in a referendum".
"Take it to the people and let the people decide," he said. Pointing out that there were members of both the Government and Opposition in favour of the CCJ as the final court, Golding said "I don't think any of us in here must ever make the mistake of presuming that there is any consensus among the people of Jamaica on this, nor must we ever seek to assume that the majority of those people will vote in a particular way".
"If what we are depending on is a consensus among us that we go to the people and say both the JLP and PNP are urging you to vote in particular way after all the years of discussion and debate on this matter, what would that say to us? That it is political mobilisation," he added.
The prime minister's insistence followed on the contribution of Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller who said while her party had "always been anxious to support any step to move the process forward so that all citizens of Jamaica will begin to enjoy a wider span of fundamental rights", the matter of the adoption of the CCJ as the final court should also be settled.
"It would be good if it could be settled while our prime minister is chair of Caricom," she said. "Shame and embarrassment should drive us to do everything in our power to avoid a repeat of the authorities in Britain advising us that we have overstayed our welcome. Prime Minister, the Privy Council is asking us to leave, have we no shame? We will not rest in our push for the CCJ to become our final Court of Appeal."
Simpson Miller said that if this was not done, the debate on the Charter of Rights would signify nothing.
In a response which very nearly caused the House to descend into another of its by now familiar rows, Golding insisted "it is not our understanding that if you don't get the CCJ you can't get the Charter of Rights. That is something that remains on the table of discussion. I have indicated that the views of this side are not inflexible. We agree with the Opposition that ...we have to dispense with the Privy Council. We are not yet satisfied that in doing so we must... replace it with something else whose existence is not within (our control)".