'Tear down this wall'
LEADER OF Government Business in the Senate A.J. Nicholson has warned the parliamentary Opposition against exposing the country's judiciary to unfair criticism on the political hustings, while pressing for a referendum to decide Jamaica's final court of appeal.
He said the Government was willing to engage the parliamentary Opposition in bipartisan talks regarding the way forward on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) bills.
In his contribution yesterday to debate on three bills for Jamaica to accede to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, Nicholson urged his opposition colleagues to do what is necessary to protect the country's judiciary.
He said the Opposition often asked why the Government did not trust the people to decide in a referendum. However, he indicated that a referendum would not leave the country's judiciary unscathed.
"That is why no country has ever had a referendum [on the issue]. They are not willing to expose their judiciary to the political hustings.
"You can't stop a man from put up him box and cuss off the whole judiciary and you never return from that; you scarred for life."
The 41 Commonwealth states that have changed the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court of appeal have not gone the route of a referendum, Nicholson added.
In his presentation to the debate, opposition Senator Dr Christopher Tufton called for dialogue between the Government and the Opposition over a 12-month period, during which efforts would be made to increase public awareness on the issue. Tufton had recommended that a referendum be held on the matter.
Nicholson said the call for a referendum erected a wall between the Government and the Opposition.
"We are not fools. We know that some of you over there would wish to vote for [these bills]. You live here. You know that to go to the Privy Council, man and man nuh have nuh money. Something or someone is holding you back," he said.
Directing his comments yesterday, Nicholson suggested that it was a "leader" of the JLP - "past or present" - who was influencing the party's decision in relation to a referendum.
"There is no incongruity in having a referendum wish and voting in favour of the bills. Let us tear down that referendum wall," he insisted.
Commenting on what he termed the journey away from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Nicholson referenced a Gleaner editorial on the issue published on March 6, 1901. The editorial stated: "Thinking men believe that the Privy Council is out of joint with the times."
He argued that 114 years later, "thinking men and women must be thinking the same thing".
"I would not wish to be a part of a Parliament that votes to remain with the Privy Council. If they want to do that, wait till I gone. In 2015, you can't be part of a Parliament in Brand Jamaica that votes to stay with the Privy Council," Nicholson stressed.