Opposition's call for CCJ referendum is double standard - Fraser-Binns
GOVERNMENT SENATOR Sophia Fraser-Binns has described as "double standard" the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) call for a referendum to decide whether the country should adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court.
In her contribution to the debate on three bills to establish the CCJ as the country's final appellate court, on Thursday in the Senate, Fraser-Binns said the parliamentary Opposition was seeking a referendum on the CCJ when they did not ask for one when Parliament passed the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms in 2011.
"The Charter of Rights represents, arguably, the most revolutionary piece of legislation in post-Independence Jamaica. It affects the fundamental rights of every Jamaican, such as the right to primary education, the express limitation of marriage of one man to one woman, and protection from unwarranted searches. Such a fundamental piece of legislation did not go to referendum," Fraser-Binns, who is an attorney-at-law, declared.
She said the then JLP administration "had no hesitation in passing the legislation with a two-thirds majority to have same entrenched in our Constitution. Indeed, neither the Government of the day - the now Opposition - nor the opposition of the day - now Government - called for a referendum".
She said: "The Opposition, by its call for referendum, is displaying an obvious double standard."
Turning to a newspaper story headlined 'Privy Council Shocker' published earlier this week, Fraser-Binns argued that the article was stale news. "It might have been a shocker to the purveyors of that belated piece of information, but to those of us who follow these matters, that item was dated information. This was alluded to by the leader of the Opposition in his contribution to the CCJ debate in the other place, and has been the subject of comment by opposition spokespersons since the incumbency of the last administration," she said.
She argued that the article failed to indicate that the Privy Council's proposed visit to sit in Jamaica was on the condition that an invitation be extended by Jamaica's chief justice and that the law lords' visit would depend on the number of appeals to be heard. "So if one appeal had to be heard, it was not sufficient for them to come to Jamaica," she added. "But for us in Jamaica, we know that one appeal is an important appeal because justice is justice."
DEFRAY ALL TRAVEL AND UPKEEP COSTS
Fraser-Binns said that the third condition was that Jamaica would have to defray all costs associated with the travel and upkeep of the judges and staff while on the island.
"That has not been disclosed, but those are the conditions precedent upon which they would consider coming to Jamaica.
"These conditions are not attached to the provisions in the agreement for the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice as an itinerant court, and this was evident in the Shanique Myrie matter," Fraser-Binns outlined.
The government senator argued that the Privy Council was not set up to act as an itinerant court, noting that "this alleged offer of an ad hoc visit to Jamaica is not sustainable. The arrangements would not be sustainable and would not in any way assist in dealing with the fundamental problem of access for all to justice."
The CCJ sat in Jamaica for the first time in 2013 when it heard the Shanique Myrie case. Myrie had taken the Barbadian government to the CCJ on allegations that she was assaulted by an immigration officer in Barbados. She subsequently won the case.