Fri | Jan 18, 2019

Ball in our court, not CCJ's

Published:Sunday | February 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Ronald Mason

"The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as the successor of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), for the sovereign nation state of Jamaica." This has been the recent topic of debate in the Parliament of Jamaica. The ruling PNP Government would have us believe that the choice is solely between the CCJ and the JCPC. This is not so. The alternative to both is the creation of a final, tertiary-level court of appeal.

The JCPC began in the year 895 in the jurisprudence of the former colonisers. Jamaica was obliged to access the institution as of 1755 up to August 6, 1962. A rather long tenure. Let us be very forthright that there is a clear understanding of the role the JCPC has played.

Between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013, there was a grand total of 36 cases heard by the JCPC. This emanated from all the jurisdictions that ascribe to the court. At this time, January 2015, there are 26 cases on the docket of the JCPC - three are of Jamaican origin. This court has never been burdened with appeals from Jamaica, even in the period where we were not obliged to have a visa to travel to London. It would be logical to expect a larger number of cases would be making their way to the final court of appeal, either to the CCJ or a Jamaican court.

New Zealand debate

The current debate in Jamaica is best seen as a continuation of the one New Zealand had in 2002. New Zealand is a former British colony. It gained independence, but with a population of only four million retained access to the JCPC. We retained access because of a form of laziness. We were in too much of a hurry to assert independence to structure the judiciary as an entrenched part of our Constitution in 1962. We made pledges to revisit the topic. Some nearly 53 years later, it is now on the Order Paper of Parliament.

However, now it is being proposed as another plank in the construction of an integrated community to be created by the present CARICOM members. This is the deceitful back door, a convenience of politicians who are afraid of the people they govern. It is now being offered as a cost-saving measure. We already have paid into the fund for the CCJ US$27 million. Let us think what US$27 million would have facilitated for the Jamaican judiciary.

We spent this money in 2003 wishing and hoping the integration movement would be quickly advanced. The PNP and the JLP have shifted their respective positions on the matter. Today, the position of the JLP, as articulated by Delroy Chuck in the parliamentary debate, is the best solution - a Jamaican final court of appeal.

It has been proffered by a former attorney general, Oswald Harding, that we wanted to go to the CCJ to secure, among other privileges, the right to hang. This was, however, thwarted by the judgment handed down by the CCJ in 2006 in the matter of Joseph and Boyce. In that ruling the CCJ adopted the ruling in Pratt and Morgan. There went the desire to embrace the CCJ for that reason.

Currently, we have Caribbean personalities, Sir Shridath Ramphal, Sir Ronald Sanders and Owen Arthur, pushing the integration movement. The people of Jamaica must be allowed a say by way of a referendum. A resounding no to the desire to foster an unholy integration for Jamaica to cede any of its sovereignty to some extraterritorial group.

Now let me be as clear as I can be. I do not suggest we must go it alone in the globalised world as a small island, economically, at this time, a weak state. Our natural affiliation must be with Cuba, 90 miles away, Haiti and Dominican Republic, 100 miles away, and the Bahamas, 480 miles.

We have natural synergies. We have geographic proximity. We have ethnic comparables. We have a larger lift in the marketplace. The logistics of transportation for people, goods and services are much more favourable.

Let us return to the CCJ. I am of the belief that no group of foreigners who may or may not have a Jamaican among their midst should sit in judgement of matters arising between two Jamaicans. The CCJ Bench originally had no Jamaicans, yet we paid 27 per cent of its funding cost. Seven Jamaicans were reported to have applied. None were found worthy.

As a Jamaican citizen, I am very comfortable in reposing confidence in a Jamaican court. We have a history of producing eminent jurists. We have jurists currently serving in Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, Belize, Cayman Islands and Bahamas. We have had Jamaicans sitting with the JCPC and at the International Court in the Hague. We are competent. We have persons with the requisite integrity and judicial temperament.

Professor Noel Cox stated in 2002 in his published Law Review that, "In some countries, consideration of nationalism have featured prominently in the abandonment of the right to appeal to the JCPC. It is considered to be an infringement of national sovereignty that a court in another country should be entitled to deliberate upon matters of internal concern."

Jamaica is an independent nation with its own sovereignty. We must cede nothing to them. Not one iota, without the people having a direct input.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to and