CCJ and the average man
Ashley-Ann Foster, Guest Columnist
I thank my learned friend, Dr Joseph Richards, for his response to the contribution I made to The Gleaner with regard to the public debate on Jamaica's acceptance of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court.
In his response, Dr Richards purports to speak on behalf of the average man. He suggests that the CCJ is not a priority for such a man. I take issue with this vicarious role, which historically has been adopted by persons who seem to contend that the average man has no interest in anything that does not smack of his basic needs.
Any time spent at any domino session on any 'corner' of this country will disabuse one's mind of this erroneous concept. The most erudite discussions take place at these domino games, with as much vigour as the placing of the tiles. The breadth of subjects and the understanding of them are as varied as the players and the plays that are made.
A whole man
Let us, therefore, not underestimate the average man. He knows that the sacred text says that 'man must not live by bread alone' and that he is not only on this earth to satisfy his basic, physical needs but to live as a whole man - mentally, socially and otherwise. Further, his beloved game, dominoes, teaches him what we all know:
1 No man is an island. One person cannot play dominoes meaningfully by himself. You need several persons, and the game is best played with partners.
2 The game is only successful and can only be played in perpetuity because there are rules. Rules known by all and adhered to by all. This system of rules provides a safe, secure foundation which allows creativity to thrive.
Such is the rule of law and the justice system that supports it. You may not appreciate its existence, but you cannot ignore its absence. Its absence is chaos. Its presence is order. A final court is the pinnacle of order in any justice system, and if, as Dr Richards says, Jamaica is in need of rebuilding, he cannot say 'the CCJ is the least of our worries' because our justice system must be the foundation on which the we build.
We must, therefore, make the CCJ and access to justice for the average man our priority. This does not exclude prioritising and addressing the issues of education, health and any other need. The next question is: Having made it a priority, should we go it alone?
Global events dictate the prudence of seeking partnerships in vital areas. The present actions of major world leaders attest to this fact. Regardless of the weaknesses of the fledgling Caribbean Community, there is no doubt that the CCJ is one area in which, as Miss Lou said, "hand better than finger" and "one hand can't clap".
In the general election of 2011, the people spoke through their vote and elected their members of parliament. These representatives, after having dialogue with the people, must now cast their votes with clean conscience, not for themselves and not for their own personal or political triumph, but for the best interests of those for whom they speak.