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Editorial: Use Golding as CCJ mediator

Published:Wednesday | May 6, 2015 | 5:00 AM

His provisos notwithstanding, we welcome Bruce Golding's public acknowledgement of the logic of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). But of potentially greater value to Jamaica's accession to the court's criminal and civil jurisdiction are Mr Golding's proposals for defusing the open politicisation of the debate and for the parties to engage in quiet horse-trading.

That is an idea that this newspaper recently suggested to the Simpson Miller administration, which, given Mr Golding's intervention, could now have traction with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and Mr Golding's successor as its leader, Andrew Holness.

In the event, we suggest that the Government postpone this month's parliamentary vote on the constitutional amendment for the CCJ to replace the Privy Council as Jamaica's court of last resort, which will most likely fail for the want of the one opposition vote in the Senate to achieve the two-thirds majority required for the law to carry. At the same time, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should seek to engage Mr Golding as an interlocutor between the parties in an attempt to resolve their differences on the court.

We start from the basis that while the supporters of the CCJ are on the right side of logic and history, Mr Golding is correct in his observation that a parliamentary defeat now could put the CCJ issue "in deep slumber, from which it is unlikely to be stirred for at least a generation". This ought not to be the case.

First, the concerns - many of them unfounded - raised by opponents of the court when it was being designed have long since been addressed. No court in the world has greater insulation than the CCJ from political interference, both in how judges are appointed and the court is funded. In its decade of operation, the court's jurisprudential quality has been highly praised.

If these were not enough, there is Mr Golding's practical reason for why Jamaica should move to an alternative to the Privy Council. He is concerned that even if Jamaica chooses not to leave the London-based and British government-financed Privy Council, "it can choose to leave us" given the absence of certainty that now attends Britain's political debate and its policies relating to countries like Jamaica. There is the CCJ, for which Jamaica has already paid.

 

HOW TO PACIFY BOTH PARTIES

 

This brings us, therefore, to how to remove the narrow politicking from the CCJ discourse and achieve what is in the best interests of Jamaica. The major problem is that the JLP has made accession to the court a kind of political marker - a red line that is not to be crossed. A great strategy of politics is to allow one, or both sides, to retreat, yet allowing all to declare victory. Mr Holness has to be afforded that opportunity.

Mr Golding posits the issue as one in which the governing People's National Party has not sufficiently sold to Jamaicans the pragmatism and obviousness of a switch to the CCJ. But he also makes a larger point: the insufficiency, over the years, "of quiet discussion and compromise".

He concludes: "Select committees and parliamentary debates are not the ways to resolve differences and reach agreement. No serious efforts at bipartisan diplomacy were made."

It's not too late to start.