Tear down that CCJ wall
Ashley-Ann Foster, GUEST COLUMNIST
As a young Jamaican attorney with a hope that her country will capitalise on its unlimited potential and actualise its boundless capabilities, I ask the leader of the Opposition and the Jamaica Labour Party to tear down the politically designed wall that continues to divide us as a nation on the matter of the CCJ.
From as early as 1970, at the sixth meeting of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, in Jamaica, a Caribbean court as the final court of appeal to replace the Privy Council was being discussed. In 2015, although Jamaica is one of the 12 signatories to the agreement establishing the CCJ, we are still talking and some of us seem to be confused.
Initially, we were told by the JLP that the CCJ was going to be 'a hanging court'. In 2012, we were told by the then shadow justice minister that the JLP had no reservations against the CCJ but that it had to be put to a national vote. Only one country in the world has had a referendum to decide whether they were abolishing the right of appeal to the Privy Council and it was highly politicised.
Fundamentally, because the judiciary is an independent body that is not to be influenced by the Government or private or partisan interests, especially not politics, a referendum is inappropriate. It politicises this national issue, which, because of the nature of our politics, would probably lead persons to voting solely along party lines and not in the national interest.
In 2014, not only did we learn of restrictive letters signed by senators with regard to the CCJ, but we were told by the JLP that it would be better to establish our own final court for our own development. This position was rejected by The Jamaican Bar Association as an expensive, "untenable" process that would take a "very long time".
We have already invested heavily in the establishment of the CCJ, which is a fully functioning court of international standards. It is high time that Jamaica put the development of our people and region before our politics.
I, along with many young attorneys, stand with The Jamaican Bar Association and the Cornwall Bar Association and strongly advocate for Jamaica's adoption of the CCJ. It is time for the development of Caribbean law for Caribbean people.
In the words of the late Trinidadian senator and esteemed attorney, Dana Seetahal, the Privy Council cannot give the best decisions even as they apply the law since they do not understand our culture. There are enough capable and well-educated persons in the Caribbean to be judges in a court of our own. For example, Patrick Robinson is one of our many outstanding legal minds.
Our people are being denied access to justice, not only because of cost or distance but also because they might not qualify for a visa. Most important, the English law lords have asked us kindly to move on.
In the words of Dr Kenny Anthony, prime minister of St Lucia: "Why on earth should we compel the British to maintain the Privy Council when the British have said to us time and time again to take your bundle and go?"
Mr Holness, tear down that wall!