THE deadlock between the Government and the Opposition over the process by which the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) would become Jamaica’s final appellate court was evident in Parliament yesterday, after Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s statement on the issue.
The prime minister told the House of Representatives that it was the duty of Parliament to guarantee the people a right of access to a final court of appeal that is within their reach.
“To insist on any obligation, other than that which has been laid down by our highest court, is to dismiss our obligation to obey the rule of law,” she stated, confirming the Government’s insistence that all that is necessary is a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament, as proposed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
She stated that it was a significant part of the meaning of independence, and to insist on any other procedure would be to dismiss Jamaica’s obligation to obey the rule of law.
She urged the Opposition to support the Government’s position and allow the change to take place this year. She added that when the time comes for a second reading of the three CCJ Bills, which have been tabled by her to pave the way for accessing the CCJ, “the arguments will be properly ventilated during the full debate”.
But, Opposition spokesman on national security and justice, Delroy Chuck, insisted that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would not be persuaded by any course, other than a referendum to let the people decide the issue.
“If we are going to be true to the Constitution of this country, let us sit and work it out; but don’t try to ram this court down the throats of the people without their endorsement and approval,” Chuck said.
Responding to Chuck’s statement, Simpson Miller said she welcomed his proposal for discussions.
“I am anticipating that we will have those discussions before the debate,” she said.
But Chuck later told the Jamaica Observer that he saw no need for further discussions now.
“Unless they withdraw the Bills, there will be no need for further discussions,” he said, noting that there had been some five years of discussions up to now with neither side changing its position.
“The JLP has given the people a commitment that there will have to be a referendum,” he added.