CCJ: Too important to be left to politicians alone

CCJ: Too important to be left to politicians alone

Monday, September 28, 2015

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Government Senator Mark Golding, we see, is urging his Opposition counterparts to vote in favour of Jamaica accepting the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as our final court of appeal on criminal matters.

According to Mr Golding, who is also the justice minister, the Opposition senators "must dig deep and do the right thing, and thereby ensure that in this fundamental matter, the Bill is passed with bipartisan support".

The Opposition, which is maintaining that the matter be put to a referendum, has already voted against the three Bills in the Lower House, and it is widely believed that that position will be maintained in the Upper House.

But Senator Golding has called on the Opposition senators to ensure that they do not "etch their names forever on the wrong side of history" as the legislature needed to fulfil "this most critical element of our national independence".

Senator Golding's appeal comes just over a week after his colleague Government senator, Mrs Sophia Frazer-Binns, argued against placing the CCJ to a referendum.

According to Senator Frazer-Binns, "No country that has been exposed to the Westminster system of government has wished that matters relating to their judiciary be exposed to the partisan political platform, for the irreversible harm that could be done to its system of the administration of justice."

Those countries, she argued, "have invariably reasoned that it is not a question of not 'trusting the people'; it is a matter of not trusting a referendum exercise to leave the judicial system unscathed".

Unfortunately for Senator Frazer-Binns, she sits in the Upper House on the recommendation of the ruling party that earlier this year waved the referendum carrot at the Jamaica Labour Party in an effort to get the Opposition's support of the three Bills tabled in the House on May 12, 2015.

At the time, the media reported that prior to the vote in the House of Representatives, the Government sent proposals to the Opposition basically seeking at least 50 per cent support from Opposition parliamentarians and senators for the Bills. In return, the Government offered a referendum on the issue following the vote in the legislature.

The Government also agreed to ask the question: 'Are you in favour of the Caribbean Court of Justice replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as Jamaica's final Court of Appeal?' (or a substantially similar question agreed in writing by the Government and the Opposition). The Government also told the Opposition that this would be put to a vote by the electorate at or before the next general election, whereby the electorate may vote 'Yes' or 'No' to that question.

Those and other promises were made by the Government, but they were rejected by the Opposition.

Four months later, the Government has not denied that it made those offers to the Opposition.

We therefore reiterate that the Government is talking out of both sides of its mouth on this issue.

Our position is that a matter of such great importance should be decided by the Jamaican people, especially given the fact that the Administration's flip flop has raised the issue of trust.

We also hold that recent events in the Caribbean have given us reason not to rush into the CCJ until we see that our politicians have matured to the extent that they can allow the court to operate completely unfettered.

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