CCJ debate on in Parliament
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller on Tuesday appealed for bipartisan approval of three bills before Parliament seeking to have the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) established as Jamaica's final appellate court.
Her call came even as she knocked the Andrew Holness-led Opposition for being caught up with "self-interest" and not recognising that most Jamaicans cannot access the United Kingdom-based Privy Council.
In opening the debate on the bills, Simpson Miller argued that the Privy Council is fundamentally inaccessible to the vast majority of Jamaicans and that litigants and their Jamaican lawyers need visas to travel to the United Kingdom.
Those visas, she noted, are not available or granted as a right.
"The Privy Council is an institution of the United Kingdom government and it would not be in our interest to entrench in our Constitution an institution that belongs to another sovereign country," the prime minister said.
It requires a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament to secure the passage of the three bills, namely, an act to make provisions for the implementation of the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice and for connected matters; an act to amend the Constitution of Jamaica to provide for the replacement of appeals to Her Majesty in Council with new provisions for appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica's final appellate court, and for connected matters; and an Act to amend the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act.
The bills were tabled in July 2012, but the parliamentary opposition has insisted that they be put before the people in a referendum.
"I am still hopeful that more than 50 years after our Independence, we can achieve political consensus between the Government and Opposition to fulfill this important aspect of achieving independence and adopting the CCJ as Jamaica's final Court of Appeal," Simpson Miller said.
But the benches on the other side of the Chamber were empty as Andrew Holness, the leader of the opposition, led his side in a walkout to protest the failure of Simpson Miller to answer questions he had tabled in the House last week.
House Speaker Micheal Peart had ruled that the questions were not due for answers, but Holness insisted that the matter was too important and that the Opposition would not sit in the chamber unless answers were being provided by Simpson Miller.