Sun | May 28, 2017

CCJ and Jamaica

Published:Sunday | September 20, 2015 | 9:00 AM

The debate in Jamaica's Senate on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is scheduled for October. The matter was passed on strict party lines in the Lower House for Jamaica to join the court for its appellate jurisdiction.

The Senate needs a two-thirds majority for the process to have a conclusion wished for by the present Government of Jamaica. I hope it fails. The CCJ is swapping the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom for a body alien to Jamaica.

There is no such thing as a Caribbean person. There is no rational basis for us to join, as CARICOM does not serve the interests of the sovereign state of Jamaica. The CCJ is an appendage to CARICOM. There are those who will make reference to us not being able to make it alone. I am not advocating going alone.

What is worthy of debate is economic integration with those countries of the northern Caribbean Basin. Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic. The facilitation of trade would be enhanced as a factor of the proximity. Cuba is 90 miles away; Dom Rep is 100 miles away. The population of this bloc makes trade viable; millions of persons, as against only one other country with a million-plus in Trinidad and Tobago.

I understand the argument made by the European Union and the North American bloc. They do not want to deal with 15 separate small countries.

What of our Independence? The referendum of 1961 spoke to that. If it is felt that the people of Jamaica have had a change of heart, put the question again to the people. Let the people evaluate the benefits of closer ties to deadbeat Barbados, which has delayed settling the attorneys' fees in the Shanique Myrie matter.

Let us evaluate the benefit of the Trinidad and Tobago police treating the holders of a Jamaican passport as suspects simply because they seek to travel within the so-called free travel zone.

 

ENDEARING IMAGE

 

Is anyone aware that the choice of Sir David Simmons, QC, as chairman of our commission of enquiry in the Tivoli Gardens incident of May 2010 must have had as part of the deliberations the subtle message regarding the CCJ. He is an eminent jurist, Barbados national, married to a Jamaican for a long time, an affable fellow.

He was an architect of the CCJ. He is being projected as benevolent, wise, worthy of trust. What an endearing image for the CCJ's portrayal, even with the gentleman never having been associated with the CCJ as a judge.

The people of Jamaica deserve to have a final court of appeal in our judiciary: a Jamaican court. All the arguments regarding the availability of qualified jurists are solidly grounded, as we look around and see the many Jamaicans serving in Cayman, Bermuda and elsewhere. Situating the court here increases the accessibility to the Jamaican populace, without additional cost of transportation and visa considerations.

The workload of the court would be manageable if we use the 15 or so cases that reach the JCPC annually for Jamaica. We do not need a new building. The CCJ sat at the Conference Centre. We need to empanel the judges as needed, not employ them full time.

We need to provide the support in terms of personnel and resources as needed. Surely, if we could have found more than US$20 million to contribute to the CCJ trust fund, we can support our own institutions that are reflective of our Independence.

The issue relating to the quality of judgments is of no moment. One would have expected nothing less than the standard they have delivered. Eminent jurists are to be found around the world. This court reflects that. What this CCJ cannot represent is the aspirations and institutional building by and of a sovereign people.

 

A THOUSAND TIMES, NO

 

Is our independence not something for which we are prepared to build on and develop with national pride? Do I need to be forever relegated to having a part of me expressed through non-nationals, by my supposed voluntary ceding a part of my sovereignty? NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES, NO.

I am a democrat. In the event that there is a referendum on the topic, I will campaign to persuade persons to share my viewpoint, but I will accept and abide by the wishes of the majority.

Until then, CARICOM, CCJ, the ceding of any more of my sovereignty will not be done without a struggle. Trade with the Caribbean nations, inclusive of Martinique, CuraÁao, Aruba, but there is no movement to include them in the institution of CARICOM. Dominican Republic does not share the English language, nor does Haiti, but they are affiliated with CARICOM. Bahamas shares the English language yet it has not wholeheartedly embraced CARICOM.

Why do we keep deluding ourselves regarding this matter to satisfy the musings of a long-deceased Norman Manley? Are we, as a country, so afraid of the future that we crave a security blanket in the form of the CCJ and CARICOM?

Were the slave rebellions led by persons cowering in fear of the future? Who are we? Why not build nationalism that would strengthen us and lead to the future we can earn?

I do not feel any kinship, loyalty, affiliation to CARICOM as the

CCJ. I am a Jamaican. I am not a Caribbean man. The measure in the Senate needs to fail.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.