Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
There is no sign of a truce between the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party and the governing People's National Party over the use of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Jamaica's final appellate court.
Opposition Spokesman on Justice Delroy Chuck yesterday stressed that the JLP was not averse to the court, but warned that it would not recoil from its demand for a referendum.
He charged that the Government was determined to solicit an undertaking from JLP parliamentarians not to engage in any form of campaign against the CCJ in a referendum.
He claimed that, in meetings, the Government was adamant that the Opposition must tow the line but stressed that was not on the cards as the positions of individual members could not be guaranteed.
"The fact is they want a commitment from us that none of us will campaign against the CCJ," Chuck said.
At the same time, he stressed that the JLP was not opposed to the CCJ as Jamaica's final appellate court but maintained that such an occurrence must receive the stamp of authority of the people.
But even so, he insisted that the Opposition could not guarantee that every member of the JLP would support the referendum in the public domain to prevent a recurrence of the 1961 nightmare for the PNP when it lost the people's vote to remain in the West Indies Federation.
"We are saying that we will go to the referendum because that is what we want, but they want a signed document from all our MPs to say that they support the referendum," said Chuck. "If I agree and we go into a referendum and the majority agrees with it but a small minority says no, how are we going to stop them?"
Signal of jlp's stance
A signal that the Opposition's assent could not be guaranteed came when noted attorney-at-law Harold Brady, a long-standing member of the JLP, expressed the view that Jamaica should establish a final court of its own rather than opt for the CCJ to replace the United Kingdom-based Privy Council.
Chuck told The Gleaner yesterday that initially the JLP had agreed that a local-based court was preferable to the CCJ as the final appellate court.
However, he said the party relaxed its stance as that proposal was not finding favour with member of the judiciary and legal fraternity.
In seeking to clear the air on the JLP's position, Chuck said his party would accede to the desires of Jamaicans if two-thirds of the population endorsed the regional court by way of a referendum.
But he was quick to sound a caution to the Government that the Opposition would not countenance any other route to the CCJ.
"In order to go to a referendum, you can go there by two means, one of which the Government will not go (referendum) and the only other way is if Government and Opposition agree."
Chuck stressed that if by the unlikeliest of chances, the Government and Opposition agree to pursue the route of a referendum, they want a two-thirds majority.