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PJ wants politicians to show maturity

Former PM says settling on final court key to Jamaica’s future

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 02, 2012    

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FORMER Prime Minister PJ Patterson wants Jamaica's politicians to show a level of maturity when it boils down to deciding the island's final court of appeal.

An advocate of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) over the United Kingdom-based Privy Council as Jamaica's final appellate court, Patterson told Jamaica Observer journalists Monday that a new will on the part of practising politicians was needed for the inevitable change to be effected.

"There has to be negotiation. There has to be give and take. I really don't want to say how I think the negotiations should be conducted, but I think if there is the will to have the things done, it can be done," Patterson said of the existing situation, which is developing into a deadlock between both political parties in Parliament.

The Government tabled two Bills in Parliament last week that it intends to effectively seek to recognise the CCJ as Jamaica's legal entity of last resort.

The ruling party, which controls 42 of the 63-seat Lower House of Representatives, is seeking a two-thirds majority -- which includes a vote in the Senate or Upper House -- to make the Bills into law.

However, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party is insisting that a referendum is needed to settle the matter.

"The political directorate doesn't take decisions in isolation," Patterson, a former People's National Party president, told a special sitting of the Monday Exchange at the Observer's Beechwood Avenue headquarters.

"They have to take into account the mood of the country, the weight of public opinion. I have noticed the editorials are showing increased impatience in the situation that exists now on both fronts and I am hoping it will be a spur to action.

"The differences are not far-reaching. I don't see any differences of policy or principle. I don't hear anybody saying we must remain a monarchy forever. I don't hear anybody saying that there is not the need for a final court of our own. It is about the process by which we achieve that. I always assume that our leaders are reasonable people and I hope that reason will prevail," Patterson stated.

The former prime minister said that he would refrain from saying anything that would make life difficult for people in the political arena than they need to be.

However, he would like to see Jamaica move to that stage whereby the CCJ takes the place of the Privy Council with limited fuss.

"I would rather encourage or cajole the leaders and the people in the political arena to come together and do what is necessary, 50 years after Independence," added Patterson, who served as Jamaica's sixth prime minister from 1992 to 2006.

"I am a bit surprised about the turnaround, because there is a clear statement in 2011 from the (JLP) party leader and the prime minister (Bruce Golding) at the time that his parliamentarians and his party were prepared to go into a certain direction, so let us hope that wiser judgement will prevail," he said.

Patterson asked whether Jamaicans had sufficient national respect to leave the Privy Council before the UK court throw the country out.

"They have made it so evident that we are an encumbrance. At the same time we have a court, which as the Privy Council itself says has the competence, has the independence, it has the learning to be able to produce judgements of the highest quality with total integrity. It has laid out (the Privy Council) the procedure for an amendment to entrench the court. It does not require a referendum.

"It will cost us not one cent more to subscribe to the final jurisdiction of the court, because it is so set up that whether you subscribe to the original only, or the original and final appellate court, it is the same payment which has to be made.

"I am hoping that as we talk about the need for national unity, it is going to be evident in a decision taken by our present parliamentarians to move on both fronts, to enable our people to exercise the right of final determination in a court of our own making, and of the selection of a head of state, who is a Jamaican citizen," Patterson said.

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