A 'time-wasting nonsense', indeed, Justice PantonThursday, March 25, 2021
In a recent address to a new batch of justices of the pe ace from the parish of St James, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, retired Justice Seymour Panton lamented what he described as a waste of time, the Trafigura court case that is now wending its way through Jamaica's last court of appeal, the Privy Council in London. What seemed to have irked the learned justice more than anything else was the consideration that such a simple matter of whether people in Jamaica should give evidence, on oath, in open court, had to be sent to be determined by the Law Lords in England. What's more is that probably we are finding it difficult to be weaned judicially from the breasts of Mother Britain.
Justice Panton was not questioning the People's National Party's (PNP) right to bring this appeal, which is its right to do, but he was lamenting the country's continued reliance on one of the surviving relics of our colonial past to determine cases in Jamaica which can be handled by fair and competent judges in our jurisdiction or, perhaps, by extension, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
I applaud the justice for calling attention to this matter. Our continued fascination with relics of the past is appalling. The Privy Council, office of the governor general, and the monarchy are anachronisms from which we should decouple as a sovereign nation.
The persistence of the UK Privy Council as our final appellate court calls into question how well Jamaicans are being served by this process. I wonder how many Jamaicans really know about its existence or, if they do, how aware are they of its functions or any benefits they can derive from it. I vouch this concern not to belittle anyone, but to question the efficacy of a system that is so central to our appellate considerations, and yet is not well known across a wide swathe of the population.
Furthermore, there is the question of how many Jamaicans, even if they were aware of its benefits, could truly take advantage of them. How many Jamaicans could afford the high-powered lawyers who could travel to England to argue their case or employ a proxy to act on their behalf before the Law Lords? Many cannot afford a lawyer to represent them in our local courts much less before such an august body.
The larger question, of course, is its continuance in our justice system. Has the time come for bodies such as the Jamaican Bar Association to take a more active position in addressing this matter? Some will argue for us to regard the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as our final court. My belief is that, as Justice Panton alluded, we have some of the most-learned and competent members of the Bar in our country. Our court system is still one of the institutions that has not suffered from the pervasive corruption that has been so much a part of our national life. I am yet to be convinced that we cannot house our final appellate jurisdiction here in Jamaica. Repatriating it from England to a halfway house somewhere in the Caribbean may give regionalists the satisfaction that we are united as a Caribbean people, but pride in our own system in which Jamaicans can be proud should be our aim and aspirational goal. Mistakes have been made in judgements offered over the years, and we still have a creaking justice system, but these are not beyond our ability to make right, with the proper focus.
I know that at this time of existential peril from the novel coronavirus pandemic, constitutional reform and other related matters are vanishing subjects on the Government's radar of priorities, but these are not subjects to be ignored when we have come out of the woods. They speak to our integrity as a sovereign nation and perpetuate an enslavement of the mind from which we should liberate ourselves.
Enhanced COVID-19 measures
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced enhanced measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. The frustration was evident in the prime minister's voice as he addressed the nation. This was due, no doubt, to the fact that, despite what the Government would consider its best efforts, people continue to treat the virus cavalierly by not adhering to the protocols that can keep all of us safe.
It must be made clear to all of us that our lives are in our own hands. The Government can only do so much. They have dropped the ball on occasions, but they have largely scored runs in managing the pandemic. There is no magic potion that can get us out of this situation any time soon. It still takes diligence, patience, and strict adherence to the proven safety protocols, with the vaccine, to get us to a place of comfort that we are turning the corner. These are the ultimate enemies of the virus.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the book WEEP: Why President Donald J. Trump Does Not Deserve A Second Term . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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