The debate in the Senate of Jamaica on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is on in earnest. The debate is replete with oratorical flourishes and excellent delivery, but one must question the content and the persuasive value. What repetition.
Both sides are offering unsubstantiated claims to support their respective positions. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is on record of having the ability and willingness to conduct hearings in Jamaica, contrary to the Government's position. This, by itself, would do damage to the arguments related to the courts' accessibility for ordinary Jamaicans.
In addition, I have yet to hear cogent arguments regarding the assertion that we should cede some of our sovereignty by having a final court, not totally within our control. We have no desire to engage in integration with the Eastern Caribbean countries. Federation tried, federation failed. Do not repeat.
I must also question the argument advanced that we could not afford the establishment of our own home-based final court. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), six micro countries with a combined population one-third the size of Jamaica, has its own court. Why is it impractical or impossible for us?
What assurance do we have that there will even be one Jamaican (home-educated, culturally based and reflective of us) who will always have a spot on the CCJ? When the CCJ began 10 years ago, there was no Jamaican selected by the institution for which Dr Lloyd Barnett, a Jamaican, was an influential participant. When the time comes for some country that currently subscribes to the CCJ to give the requisite three years' notice of an interest to withdraw, how permanent will the CCJ then be?
The opposition senators are constrained by the Senate letters. They WILL have to vote NO except where, for practical purposes, their political career is over. Read Arthur Williams. He has the legitimacy of being an attorney of long, honourable standing and would legitimately claim to support the position of the Jamaican Bar Association in a vote to enable Jamaica to ascend to the CCJ.
When given the opportunity, by way of live television coverage, I did not see Senator Williams appear to accept the arguments made by Senator Malahoo Forte regarding the opinion that the CCJ would not be deeply entrenched by the methods being followed by the Government. How can the argument be made and thought to be persuasive that we must claim the sovereignty that comes with leaving the Privy Council, but turn around and give it away to the CCJ?
CARICOM IS DEAD. It just has not been buried. Why do we cling to faded dreams of many decades ago? Even the one formerly unifying feature, cricket, is also dying. What realistically binds the so-called CARICOM nations? Reparation, skin pigmentation, sand, sea, and sun location, small island/state economies? We have no commonly shared vital interests.
The quest to force-feed Jamaica a diet of CCJ cannot be projected for long term. Surely a notice to withdraw is in our future and should we end up joining at this time, the experiment will implode. Let me be clear. The formation of alliances for shared objections is honourable. Foreign affairs, mutual assistance, common crime-fighting objectives are some that readily come to mind. Ceding of sovereignty is not a long-term probability.
The health-care delivery system here in Jamaica has major challenges. It is not serving the needs of the population to the standards that should be mandated. The deaths of 18 premature babies are, in itself, tragic. The fact that there is evidence that a cover-up was in place is appalling. The disinfectant nature of publicity which would let in the sunlight of scrutiny was totally ignored. This, on top of the recent death at Spanish Town Hospital, under questionable circumstances, is not acceptable.
The minister of health must clean house, literally and figuratively, and if found appropriate, the fact that he is in charge should lead to an external investigation of his leadership. If one can answer the question which arises, would you trust the care at one of our public-health facilities, in an affirmative? Then you are in the minority.
Good health care is a right for the citizens. We do not have it. It takes money. It takes will. There are too many problem areas - from the safety of staff, the availability of supplies, the use of public facilities for private gain, the persons who are contracted to maintain the facilities, the persons who are contracted to act as porters, etc., the lack of public education, undisciplined public, lack of good customer service by health providers, lack of empathy by health providers. This is rampant to the detriment of the citizens. These are but a few of the maladies. The fact that the general election for parliament is in the very near future may be the appropriate point for reflection, for new placing and change resolve. It must be done.
In the case of the health sector, it is not only the loss of a limb, diminished lifestyles, but ultimately the badly served citizen pays with their life. A poor education leads to an expensive life of ignorance. A poor medical outcome leads to early death and disability. Both inhibit growth of the economy.