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Editorial: Invite CCJ president to address Parliament

Published:Friday | May 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Bruce Golding, the former prime minister, is right. A defeat in Parliament this month of the constitutional amendment to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as this country's court of last resort will likely remove the issue from the Jamaican agenda for perhaps a generation.

As Mr Golding has now been persuaded, this newspaper has long appreciated the logic of the CCJ, which is why we believe that even at this late stage, the Government should take all practical steps to create an environment in which the Opposition can support the bill.

Indeed, it is on that basis we urged the postponement of the vote and propose that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller engage Mr Golding in an informal 'good offices' role to facilitate back-channel talks with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which he used to lead, and fashion a compromise. It is our view that the JLP should allow those of its senators who agree with the court to vote in favour of the legislation, thus providing the two-thirds majority required for the bills to pass. The Government has that two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and, therefore, does not strictly require the Opposition's support.


the nature of politics


We, however, appreciate that it is the nature of politics that the JLP and its leader, Andrew Holness, in retreating from its anti-CCJ red line, has to be able to do so in a fashion that does not appear to be a climbdown and allows them to declare victory. That would be part of Mr Golding's assignment, beyond convincing Mr Holness, his successor, of the fact that the way how things are going in Britain these days, while Jamaica may not wish to leave the Privy Council, "it may choose to leave us".

Mr Golding lamented the fact that both sides of the CCJ politics have talked at each other, rather than engage in quiet diplomacy, and is concerned that there have not been sufficient hard analyses of the jurisprudentiality of the court in its decade of operation. There have been scholarly articles attesting to the insulation of the court against political interference, as well as the high quality of its judgments. These may not sufficiently be in the popular domain. Perhaps, the legislature should begin to change that as part of the new, facilitatory environment to improve the bill's chance of passage.

First, we suggest that Dennis Byron, the president of the CCJ, address a joint sitting of Parliament about the regional court, focusing on how it has operated; the logic of its existence; and the value it can bring to Jamaica in its criminal and civil jurisdictions, as well as the court's other initiatives to enhance justice in the Caribbean.

Such addresses to legislatures, though mostly the privilege of heads of state or government, are not unusual. In fact, last year, Hilary Beckles, the new vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies and chairman of CARICOM's commission on reparations, addressed the British Parliament on that issue. If nothing else, the Jamaican legislators will discover that in Sir Dennis, a former two-term president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, resides not only a top-class jurist but a fine intellect.

Maybe the court and supportive NGOs should also engage in a non-contentious public education programme on its work.