JLP's already won CCJ battle
I can't say I've been following all the ins and outs and various micro-permutations of the CCJ debate over these last few weeks. That's because once the Opposition had reiterated its position, it was a foregone conclusion that the CCJ would go absolutely nowhere for now.
Andrew will win the CCJ battle. He has the votes to kill it - in the Senate - and he will.
I say he has the votes, not the arguments. As The Gleaner has made clear in some excellent and pointed editorials recently, with funding and political insulation secured, there are no good arguments against the CCJ anymore.
Still, Andrew is hobbled by his party's ever-shifting positions on the CCJ: they were for it before they were uncompromisingly against it. Then they were for a referendum, or for a purely Jamaican final appellate court. So they are happy with either an expensive and remote external body on which no Jamaican sits, or a completely internal body on which only Jamaicans sit.
Now this kind of extreme dissonance is surely a sign of political bipolar disorder. But it's my belief that if Andrew were approaching this matter without the weight of all that confused history, there would be a different approach. That's because he's shown in other areas that he's not attached to meaningless insularity. Consider his position on amending the prohibition against non-Commonwealth dual citizens having Parliamentary roles: it's the PNP's approach that's more backward and insular.
Anyway, what we're seeing right now is just straight political manoeuvring and the weight of an inherited position. Those aren't insignificant limitations. He inherited a position from the previous party overlords, and we have to appreciate that it would be very difficult to change course himself, much less convince others that they needed to.
Imagine that conversation: "Ahhhmmm ... people! We were wrong. Wi haffi leggo offah dat." Those are difficult words. In politics, they're almost impossible words to utter. One Mr Golding (I'm talking Dudus-Golding, not ganja-Golding), to his credit, pretty much said just that a couple of weeks ago in The Sunday Gleaner.
Anyway, The Gleaner recognised Andrew's difficulty and was thinking of creative ways to give him an opportunity to de-escalate the unreasonable opposition. It had even settled on encouraging the Government to give the same Golding an unofficial commission as CCJ go-between. But even so, the paper realised that the challenge was to find 'a win', or at least a safe retreat, for Andrew on the issue.
On Golding's point that the Privy Council "may choose to leave us", I wonder if the full implications of that have been thought through? Truth is, they've been all but begging for us to go. So when one partner in a relationship wants to leave it, do you call a referendum to decide what to do? True, it's been a long time we've been thinking about leaving England, but we couldn't make up our minds. Is like wi did well waan leff har, but shi have a good job, wi like all de furniture wi did choose fi de house, and de cookin' did alright.
But now she's getting up and deciding: "Look here! Mi ah leff yuh, becaw mi dun wid de free wuk, yuh wutliss what's-it-not!" Under the circumstances, we don't get to say, "Honey, please put down the suitcase and relax for a while ... . Me and the kids want to have a referendum about whether you should leave!" No! Ah nuh soh leffin goh!
Let's explain again. I once saw a movie where after an abusive relationship had ended, the psychotic woman sat around with all the old paraphernalia, cherishing every remnant of the 'good old days'. Do we want to be that psycho? Stalkers of the Privy Council until the very end, saying: "Lawwwd! Doh! Please nuh leff wi! De bun wid de European Union hot hot, but we wi' tek it!"
pounding the desk
Some years ago now, and in another land, an old-time trial attorney gave me this advice as I was nervously prepping for a trial: "If you have the law, pound the law. If you have the facts, pound the facts. If you have neither, pound the desk!" In terms of argumentation about the pros and cons of the court, right now Andrew is just pounding the desk.
The retreat into crying for a referendum is, to my mind, just that. All the substantive arguments against the court have dried up, so you shift the goalpost and argue about process.
The real problem is that what's being proposed isn't so much a referendum so much as a national election with the CCJ vs the Privy Council as the Pacquiao vs Mayweather title fight. The PNP would take one side and the JLP the other, and the bitterness would begin. And that's a problem. Because the inevitable result will be that nearly one-half the voters (and, by extension, one-half the country) will have developed and expressed their distaste for the court that ultimately is chosen.
So Andrew will win this battle. However, I don't know that he's winning the war of positioning himself as a leader with eyes fixed on the future. Certainly the opportunity is there for him, because as the average age of the PNP Cabinet grows to exceed that of the Chinese Politburo, it ought to spell enormous opportunity for a nimble rival. But instead of facing forward, he's looking backward.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.