Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE PARLIAMENTARY Opposition says it will not stand in the way of the passage of the Charter of Rights, but has again declared its intention to press for Jamaica's signing on to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
"The Opposition is not going to vote against the charter because it was started by us. We are more than anxious for the fundamental rights of Jamaica to be expanded and protected," A.J. Nicholson, the opposition spokesman on justice, told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding told Parliament last week that the vote on the Charter of Rights, which is intended to replace Chapter Three of the Constitution, would be taken this Tuesday.
"The three-month period has expired, and then it has to go to the Senate," Golding said, while noting that if it was not passed before Parliament was prorogued in two weeks, then the process of debate would have to be restarted.
The Opposition has consistently said it would prefer if the CCJ adjudicated on the provisions of the Charter of Rights rather than the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which now serves as the country's final court of appeal.
When Golding, in December, suggested that Jamaica should consider establishing a final court of appeal here in Jamaica and abandon the idea of the CCJ, the Opposition chastised him, saying it was an unwise proposal.
Yesterday, Nicholson said Golding was guilty of "petty nationalism" when he proposed the local final court. He said although the Opposition would vote "enthusiastically for the charter", the Government was being placed on notice that the Opposition would be fighting to have the CCJ as Jamaica's final court of appeal.
"We are going to vote for it and vote enthusiastically for it, but that is not the end of the constitutional reform process that we have to deal with. It is the beginning, and we expect the Government to restart the process of having the Caribbean Court of Justice become our final court of appeal," Nicholson said.
The CCJ, the regional judicial tribunal established 10 years ago, was designed to be the final appellate court for member states of the Caribbean Community.
While Jamaica is a signatory to the establishment of the CCJ, the country has yet to utilise it in its appellate jurisdiction as cases from the island are still referred to the Privy Council. Only three countries - Barbados, Guyana, and Belize - have signed on to the CCJ.
Golding's Jamaica Labour Party, which forms the Government, has consistently said it would only abolish use of the CCJ if Jamaicans made that decision in a referendum.
Yesterday, the CCJ introduced its president designate, 68-year-old Sir Dennis Byron, in a regional videoconference. Byron said his first goal as president is to win the confidence of the member states of the region.
In the meantime, Michael de la Bastide, outgoing president of the CCJ, criticised Golding when he suggested that Jamaica should consider establishing its own final court of appeal. "It would not be the best course. The preferable course would be to accept the regional court as the final court," said de la Bastide, who retires from seven years of presidency in August.