The Government and the parliamentary Opposition remain on a collision course over the planned introduction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate body, despite general agreement by the parties that this is the way to go.
With measures already started in Parliament for the CCJ to replace the Privy Council, neither Government nor Opposition appear ready to relent on their position regarding the need for a national referendum.
The Government is adamant that there is no constitutional basis for a referendum, but the Opposition is equally adamant that it will not support the move unless it is approved by Jamaicans in a referendum.
With not even an inkling of a compromise in sight, the prolonged, intractable positions adopted by the two major political parties seem set to derail the passage of the bills before Parliament to give legal standing to the CCJ as the final appeal court.
The governing People's National Party (PNP) and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), who share the 84 seats in both Houses of Parliament, renewed their battle at a Gleaner Editors' Forum late last week.
Attorney General Patrick Atkinson conceded, with a shrug, that the Government is adamant that there is no need for a referendum and is likely to collide head-on with the Opposition.
conscience vote required
For his part, Opposition Spokesman on Justice Delroy Chuck maintained that a mere 84 members of the House should not be allowed to decide on such an important issue.
"Let us do it with the will of the people," declared Chuck .
"Let me reveal a secret that only Patrick (Atkinson) and I can agree with, in meetings with them (the Government), we said we are prepared to go with the Government and put it to the people.
"But they want us to say that no member of our party would disagree," he added.
"We can't do that as there are persons who, of their own conscience, would disagree, but what we are saying is that the parliamentary persons (on the opposition benches) who would have voted would not disagree, but you can't stop others from disagreeing."
Atkinson, however, countered that this was not his understanding. "We asked (of the Opposition) what's your view, and nobody would tell. We got very wary."
It requires a two-third majority of both Houses to facilitate the change for the CCJ to operate as Jamaica's final appellate court.
With 42 of the 63 members of Parliament in the House of Representatives sitting on the government benches, the Simpson Miller-led administration is likely to get its way in that chamber.
But the way will not be as easy in the Senate, with its composition of 13 government senators and eight sitting on the opposition side of the divide.
The Government in July tabled the three bills aimed at replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the CCJ as Jamaica's final appellate court.
After assuming office in January, the PNP Government had stated its intention to have the CCJ serving in both the original and appellate jurisdictions for Jamaica in time for the 50th anniversary of the island's Independence in August.
- Gary Spaulding