Disabilities Act could revive debate on CCJSaturday, July 24, 2021
OPPOSITION Senator Floyd Morris yesterday welcomed the tabling of regulations for the Disabilities Act, which has been practically dormant since being passed in Parliament in 2014.
Senator Morris, at the same time, indicated the possibility of another attempt by the Opposition at a debate in Parliament on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Jamaica's final appellate court in the near future.
The regulations were affirmed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, after they were tabled by the minister of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne, seven years after the Bill was passed to activate the Disabilities Act.
“I want to say to the minister that I am prepared to work with you in terms of the implementation, but I want to hear now the appointed day for the legislation to come into effect to be announced,” Senator Morris said as he made his presentation in the annual State of the Nation Debate in the Senate.
“Whilst the regulations being tabled in Parliament [are] a progressive step, I want us to move now to where the legislation is implemented, to bring persons with disabilities into the mainstream of the Jamaican society, because we want to use the legislation to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty and empower our people,” he stated.
However, he conceded that the Opposition wants to take the issue much further, by seeking the assurance of the Government that it will reverse its position against the CCJ as Jamaica's final appellate court.
Morris said that next week a major virtual conference on disabilities will be held in the region, involving 15 Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries, including Jamaica, which want to establish strong disability jurisprudence within the Caribbean.
“To date, out of the 15 Caricom countries, six have established such [disabilities] legislation, and that would include Jamaica. We want to make sure that all the countries within the region establish this piece of legislation. But we want to take it much further than that, because persons with disabilities are extremely poor individuals and we would want to see the Caribbean Court of Justice being brought to the forefront, in terms of the implementation of the enforcement of these legislations, when they come into force,” Senator Morris said.
He said that in that case, people with disabilities in the Caribbean would not have to travel to the United Kingdom to get their appeals heard by the Privy Council, “so we want to bring the matter closer home”.
“What a progressive step the [Jamaican] Government would make if it took the decision to establish the CCJ as a final court of appeal,” he added.
He said that if the Government was prepared to go the route of the CCJ, and take the constitutional motion to the Senate, he was prepared to guarantee the 14 votes that they would need for a two-thirds majority because he is a firm believer in the CCJ.
He noted that the Government already has a two-third majority in the House of Representatives to approve the move, so it would only need a single addition to its 13 members in the Senate to hit the two-thirds mark.
The Disabilities Act was passed in 2014 to provide for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities by highlighting and enforcing the rights of such individuals, in accordance with those stated in the Constitution of Jamaica and the principles and standards of non-discrimination set out in (a) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (b) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and (c) the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The CCJ is the final Court of Appeal on civil and criminal matters for four Caricom states, namely Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana. Jamaica and other Caricom countries have continued to refer appeals to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.
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