Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Delay any referendum, PM - commentators

Published:Wednesday | March 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Bert Samuels
Dr Paul Ashley

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is being urged to move slowly before carrying out his plan to stage a referendum on key constitutional issues.

Holness used his inaugural address last Thursday to underscore his commitment to give Jamaicans a chance to have their voices heard on constitutional matters, but some analysts say that should not be a priority.

?There is need for us to have a say in the fundamental institutions that define Jamaica, the rights we secure for our citizens and how we want Jamaica to be,? said Holness in his first address after being sworn in as Jamaica?s ninth Prime Minister.

"We will give form to that voice in a referendum to decide on the constitutional matters and social matters," added Holness whose Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has repeatedly argued that matters such as the Caribbean Court of Justice as the nation's final court of appeal and the retention of the buggery law should be decided by the people.

But, hours before the prime minister's utterances some participants at a Gleaner Editors' forum suggested that the prime minister should delay the staging of a referendum.

"A referendum is not a priority for the new Prime Minister. It's not important right now," said attorney-at-law Dr Paul Ashley.

"I think he should leave that alone. We would have to pass all the International Monetary Fund tests to get the money to pay for the referendum. Put that down," urged Ashley.

Fellow attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, agreed that there should be no referendum anytime soon.

"Do we know how much these elections cost? Could we just put that in the bag? We would have to put several issues on the referendum. We can't take it on," argued Samuels.

While in opposition, and on the campaign trail, Holness and other members of the JLP, frequently argued that there were several advantages to holding a referendum on the CCJ.

They argued that this would give the electorate a chance to participate in the legal reform, and help to strengthen the people's faith in the democratic process.

But the then governing People's National Party countered that this was not a constitutional requirement as it requires only a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament for the CCJ to replace the Privy Council as the country's final appellate court.