THE EDITOR, Sir:
The Shanique Myrie case is one to watch. In an uncanny twist, the outcome of Ms Myrie's case may have greater implications for the future of the Caribbean Court of Jamaica (CCJ) than for that of Ms Myrie.
We know the fierce debate which has been taking place in relation to whether Jamaica should abolish the Privy Council and adopt the CCJ as its final court of appeal. The arguments are well known. One in favour of retaining the Privy Council is that the judges sitting in England would provide better justice.
We have also heard the complaint that it was a slap in the face to Jamaicans to be financing the court at huge costs when the court did not even have a Jamaican sitting on it for its many years of operation. This complaint has now disappeared with the very recent appointment of its first Jamaican.
Nonetheless, large sections of Jamaica remain wary of adopting the CCJ as the final court and are anxious for further reasons to retain the Privy Council. A defeat for Shanique Myrie may well provide such a reason.
Ever since Ms Myrie made allegations against the Barbadian government, there has been extensive media coverage in Jamaica. Many Jamaicans have empathised with Ms Myrie and are hoping that the scales of justice will tip in her favour.
As a people, we naturally want our own to win, and a loss to Ms Myrie could easily be viewed as a loss to, and another slap in the face of, Jamaicans.
Those who have been anxious for another reason to retain the Privy Council will declare any such loss a denial of justice and will brandish it as evidence that the judges in England are better. The arcane legal arguments concerning treaty interpretation and technical rules of evidence which may justify the CCJ's decision will be overlooked by these individuals.
Such arguments are not likely to console the majority of Jamaicans who would view themselves as sharing vicariously in Ms Myrie's loss, and they are unlikely to endear the court to those Jamaicans who have not made up their minds as to which side of the debate they fall.
Barbados has already adopted the CCJ in both its original and appellate jurisdictions. Jamaicans could be asked to decide, by referendum, whether to abolish the Privy Council and adopt the CCJ as its final court. The fact that the CCJ is currently exercising its original jurisdiction will not matter to a voting public which knows that the same judges will also sit as that final court.
JUDGMENT COULD SET BACK CCJ
If Jamaica votes against abolishing the Privy Council, this could set back the CCJ and, by extension, the Caribbean integration project, by many years. Even if the issue is not determined by a referendum, it is very likely there will be arguments in Parliament which rest on the court's decision.
Ms Myrie's case could not come at a worse time for the CCJ. The judges know what is at stake; they are sensitive to Jamaica's strained relationship with the court. They have to do justice according to law, yet they know Jamaica is not likely to take kindly to a loss to Ms Myrie. Perhaps they hope that conducting part of the proceedings in Jamaica, along with having a Jamaican on the court, will soften the blow of a possible defeat.
When Ms Myrie boarded that flight to Barbados, little would she have known the significance that act would come to have for her future and, potentially, for the future of the CCJ. In determining the fate of Ms Myrie, the CCJ will almost certainly determine its own.