Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
SEASONED POLITICIAN Delroy Chuck says Jamaicans do not vote on issues and the fact that the vast majority of the electorate voted for the People's National Party (PNP) in the last general election should not be viewed as an expression of a desire for the country to abolish appeals to the Privy Council.
Chuck, who was a guest at a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street offices in central Kingston last Thursday, said only a small number of Jamaicans pay attention to issues on the political hustings.
"The vast majority of our people vote along party lines," Chuck said while arguing that "probably less than 10 per cent of our people really vote on issues".
Chuck, who is the leader of opposition business in the House of Representatives, used the forum to further the Opposition's call for a referendum on whether Jamaica should abolish appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The Government has laid bills in Parliament which aim to replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
NOT ABOUT MANIFESTO
Asked whether the overwhelming majority secured by the PNP in the last election should not be viewed as the people embracing the manifesto commitment to sign on to the CCJ in its full jurisdiction, Chuck said he was not sure what the people were voting on.
"The manifesto of the PNP came out five days before the election. Would they have had time to consider it?" Chuck asked.
He added: "Our manifesto came out a couple weeks before in which we say the people must decide. Have they rejected it because they voted the PNP in? I am not too sure what they voted on."
Attorney General Patrick Atkinson was singing a different tune.
"I don't think there was any secret among the electorate that that was the intention of the People's National Party if they were elected," Atkinson said.
Professor Oswald Harding, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Tech-nology, noted however that only 52 per per cent of the voting population cast a ballot in the last general election.
"With how many members they have in the Parliament, 52 per cent of the electorate put them there. A lot of people folded their arms and said let these clans fight it out," Harding said.
In the meantime, Queen's Counsel Frank Phipps said legislators have a history of passing laws which have an adverse impact on people without consulting the people.
"They passed a Charter of Rights without asking the people. They want to pass a Caribbean Court of Justice without consulting the people. All those who get us in this dilemma should be asked to pay for the cost personally ... the members of parliament who pass a law without consulting the people," Phipps argued.
He added: "In a democracy, a government has the amount of power that is given to them by the people as stated in the Constitution. The same people who get into power by a decision of the people reject the idea that the people can decide whether we have a Caribbean court."
Chuck, meanwhile, said the Government should consider partnering with the Opposition and going to the people on a referendum, both saying the same thing.
"There is absolutely no doubt that if the Labour Party and the People's National Party say we want to remove the Queen or we want the CCJ to replace the Privy Council that we are going to get an overwhelming majority," Chuck said.