Sat | Sep 19, 2020

Put Privy Council to referendum

Published:Sunday | November 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Ronald Mason, Contributor

In 1970, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) formed the Government of Jamaica. At a regional heads of government meeting, the JLP Government proposed the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). There was conceived the organisation that has continued to occupy our thoughts and generate conflicting opinions to this day. It was, however, not the first proposal that we leave the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the UK.

On April 16, 2005, the CCJ was born and took up residence at 134 Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. For the CCJ to have substance, 14 countries, including Jamaica, contributed to the trust fund that assures the financial viability of the CCJ. Jamaica paid in US$27 million. Only Trinidad and Tobago paid more, some US$29 million.

There has been the argument made that this court reflects 'us' - this mythical being called the Caribbean person - yet, from its inception, this has not been so. From their appointment in 2005, there have been 'foreigners' sitting on the court. The irony of trumpeting the necessity to leave the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is that the CCJ is part foreign-leaning and does not understand life in Jamaica.

David Hayton, a judge, one of seven, is from the UK. Jacob Wit, a judge, is from the Netherlands Antilles. The court did not, in 2005, have a Jamaican jurist on the panel. It has one now. Imagine, Jamaica paid more than 25 per cent of its cost and had no representation. CARICOM certainly made it clear from day one that it did not need us, but needed our money.


The court is structurally deficient. What recourse is open to an aggrieved party where the court, in its original jurisdiction, rules and the defaulting state refuses to enforce the decision of the CCJ? Answers? NONE! Haiti and Suriname are civil-law jurisprudence. How will it be all right to stretch the jurisprudence of this court to embrace both the Coon Law jurisdiction of the remaining subscribers, as well as Haiti and Suriname? Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda must have a referendum to make the final decision. Others have super majorities of their Parliament as the final arbiter. Trinidad has announced it will have a referendum. Jamaica is having the debate.

The PNP administration has a phobia of referenda. The events of 1961 gave rise to this. However, the old dear departed of the PNP has left an infection which accounts for its fear of a politicised referendum for Jamaica. All referenda are politicised. This is particularly pronounced in cases where the competing political forces align to different sides of the referendum question.

Currently, we have the PNP stating that money is an issue for us to establish our own final appellate court. Does this imply that the Jamaican economy does not have real prospects for growth and viability to afford an instrument of national significance? Let the people decide.


We are nominally independent, and at the time of Independence, we deferred the major act of completion of our judiciary. However, we must move forward with full independence, not southward to Port-of-Spain and Georgetown. We have been forced-fed this CARICOM drivel. Notice, it has not benefited us. Trinidad breaches the rules regarding the origin for petroleum products, the single largest dollar value of our imports from them, yet that republic ignores attempts at resolution. They forget the money rather than engage. They treat Jamaica with scant regard.

I declare that I am totally anti-CARICOM. I want to see its final and total demise. Do not respond with the red herring that small island states cannot survive alone in this geopolitical world. I never said we would go it alone. Just not go with CARICOM.

I am prepared to take the fight to the diaspora. I want the people to say, once and for all, if they want to be governed in Jamaica or Georgetown, or Port-of-Spain. You were handed a CARICOM Community passport. You were assessed a charge for the court. You have been refused entry and deemed the benefits of the migration protocol. You have been accused of being major contributor of crime in Trinidad, and the breaking up of relationships among individuals in Barbados.

Let the people decide.

I am a democrat. The collective wisdom of my people will be sufficient for me to fall in line if the CCJ is approved. I will be a most vigorous opponent at this stage. Let the people decide.

The British have hinted that we should leave the Privy Council. Let us, in response, set a timetable for the creation and funding of a reserve for a Jamaican final appellate court, should it be five or 10 years.

Set the date for the referendum. Put the sole question to the electorate: Let the voice of the people be heard. Have faith in the collective decision. This is my plea to Portia Simpson Miller and the reluctant PNP. Have some pride in Jamaican sovereignty.

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