Attorney General Patrick Atkinson has downplayed speculation that the recent thrust by the People's National Party (PNP) government to accept the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is merely a move aimed at appeasing the populace.
"It has always been this party's position that Jamaica ought to be an independent nation and we ought to be looking about our affairs ourselves," Atkinson told journalists in attendance at a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's North Street offices in Kingston last week. "Long before the last election, we have been espousing the CCJ. It has nothing to do with popularism."
The PNP has posited the view that Jamaica should sever ties with the London-based Privy Council and make the CCJ the final court of appeal for island.
However, the Jamaica Labour Party has said it wants a referendum to allow Jamaicans to decide whether to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ.
Moving further to defend his government's position to adopt the CCJ, Atkinson, who had to fend off criticism from other legal minds present, said not only was the Privy Council out of touch with Caribbean realities, but that clinging to that body was an indictment on Jamaica's Independence.
"We, as a region, have assiduously worked to create our own lawyers and legal professionals and, in fact, most of the persons that are in place are graduates of our law school, so we have a justice system that is essentially Caribbean," Atkinson said. "Then we find ourselves in a position that we appeal our decisions in these circumstances to a court in which none of its members could practise law in Jamaica without going back to law school and doing a six-month course. This is the situation that we find ourselves in."