Devon Dick | Churches Converging on Caribbean Court of Justice
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will be the focus of churches on July 31 at 4 p.m. at the Webster Memorial United Church, Half-Way Tree Road. The guest speaker will be the Right Honourable Sir Charles Michael Dennis Byron, president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) since 2011. He is the former president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and former chief justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. He is a heavyweight judicial luminary from St Kitts and Nevis. Judge Byron is no anti-monarchist or anti-British Empire, as in 2000 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and he was appointed a member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council in 2004. He will be a balanced speaker.
It seems apparent that, at the 23rd staging of the Annual Churches Emancipation Lecture, this diverse denominational and ecumenical grouping of Bethel Baptist, Boulevard Baptist, Hope United, Meadowbrook United, United Theological College of the West Indies and Webster United are showing support for the CCJ, or at least facilitating a discussion on the CCJ.
The Churches Emancipation Lecture organising group has been successful in raising the consciousness of the Jamaican citizens as it relates to emancipation. This group, when it started, had as one of its aims the reintroduction of August 1 as a national holiday to mark emancipation, a most significant part of our history which continues to influence our language, self-understanding and self-identity. Emancipation records the day slavery was declared illegal, and not to celebrate that distinctive event is like telling Jews not to celebrate the Passover, which commemorates the end of Egyptian slavery.
Last year, the lecture focused on the case for reparations and how compensation could be implemented. This year, it is all about the CCJ. The focus is on the CCJ. Jamaica already uses the CCJ in trade matters and the nation celebrated when Jamaican Shanique Myrie won a judgment which was a victory for freedom of movement within CARICOM for its nationals. However, though Jamaica pays for the court, it is not its final appellate court.
Hopefully, the presence of Sir Dennis will provide an opportunity to renew and advance public discourse on the challenges of immigration and trade under the treaty of Chaguaramas to which all CARICOM states are bound. It is also expected that Bryon will talk about the CCJ as an instrument for better and speedy access to justice by Caribbean nationals.
LACK OF CONFIDENCE
It should be an interesting discussion on the CCJ, based on the majority of Jamaicans believing that the country would be better off under British rule. Our folklore credits the late Queen Victoria as granting freedom to the enslaved in Jamaica, 'Jubilee, Jubilee, this is the year of Jubilee, Queen Victoria gi wi free'. When, in fact, Victoria was not on the throne when the Act of Emancipation was passed in 1834. This song shows a lack of confidence in our National Hero Sam Sharpe and his contribution to emancipation. A referendum on the Privy Council could be an exercise in folly. Why? We do not have the power to remain within the Privy Council if the British decide that we should exit. In other words, I cannot vote to remain in someone's house for which I am not paying rent and have no treaty obligations.
The lecture marks the 178th anniversary of the emancipation of enslaved Africans from chattel slavery under British rule, and it is time we have confidence that, under God, we can mange our political, economic, religious and judicial affairs as we cooperate with partners.
• Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion
Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.