Poll: Majority of J’cans favour dumping UK Privy Council for regional court
A majority of Jamaicans 18 years and over have voiced strong support for the country to replace the United Kingdom (UK)-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). An RJRGLEANER Communications Group-commissioned Don Anderson poll...
A majority of Jamaicans 18 years and over have voiced strong support for the country to replace the United Kingdom (UK)-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
An RJRGLEANER Communications Group-commissioned Don Anderson poll has revealed that 58.9 per cent of Jamaicans are of the view that Jamaica should do away with the British Privy Council in favour of the CCJ.
However, 23 per cent of those polled believe that Jamaica should stay with the Privy Council.
At the same time, 18.1 per cent of those surveyed were either not sure, didn’t know or had no opinion on whether the Privy Council should be retained or replaced by the CCJ.
Anderson conducted the poll between August 30 and September 14. A total of 1,010 Jamaicans of voting age participated in the survey, which has a sampling error of plus or minus three per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.
Respondents from all parishes were interviewed with approximately 25 per cent being randomly called back as part of fieldwork validation.
Constitutional expert Dr Lloyd Barnett is not satisfied with the nearly 59 per cent of those interviewed who want their final court to be the CCJ.
“Is this sufficient majority to be decisive? No. I would prefer even a higher majority because I think the arguments in favour of access to the Caribbean Court of Justice are so strong that I really believe that if persons understood all the factors those who are in doubt would say, yes,” the senior counsel told The Gleaner.
Barnett is of the view that more extensive public education on the question of constitutional reform would have translated into a greater percentage of Jamaicans embracing the CCJ and signalling their intent to leave the UK Privy Council.
“I do not see any rational arguments being articulated in favour of retaining the Privy Council,” he said.
Barnett was also asked whether the process to move Jamaica from a constitutional monarchy to a republic should be done simultaneously with the country’s accession to the CCJ.
This was a view strongly expressed by People’s National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding at the recent annual conference of the party.
“We in the PNP have no interest in moving to a republic while retaining the King’s Privy Council in London as Jamaica’s final court. Time come for full decolonisation,” Golding said.
Barnett said he was in favour of removing the Privy Council as Jamaica’s final court of appeal but noted that he was also strongly in support of dispensing with all the trappings of colonialism.
The respected constitutional lawyer listed three monarchical areas for which he is strongly advocating for change.
Firstly, Barnett wants the Constitution changed from an Order in Council that was approved by the British Monarch to a Jamaican instrument. The other two areas are removing the King as Head of State and dispensing with the Privy Council as Jamaica’s final court of appeal.
“I wouldn’t say that I will dispense with two of those because I can’t get the third. I want all three but I am not going to throw everything away if I can only get two,” he said in relation to the PNP’s position.
OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE
Barnett indicated that discussions on which court Jamaica should finally choose as its final court of appeal are of national significance and the Government should provide leadership on these talks.
Barnett is questioning why the Government was seemingly not able to “say what they support and what they don’t support” in relation to the CCJ.
He insisted that it was the Government’s responsibility to be open and helpful to the people in this regard.
Another legal luminary, Frank Phipps, said the results of the poll suggest that Jamaicans were not sufficiently educated as to the significance of making such an important decision.
“What alarms me more than anything else is that the question is not put in the context of getting rid of the Monarch and the effect it will have on the quest for reparation,” he added.
He argued that if Jamaica scrapped the British Monarchy at this time the legal provision for reparation under the Judicial Committee Act would be lost forever.
Getting rid of the Privy Council will effectively cause Jamaica to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get reparation by the legal process that exists now, he continued.
He cited Section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act of 1833 where a complaint that can’t go through the court can be brought to the attention of the Monarch and he will put the matter before the court.
Slavery is one of the complaints that cannot go through the court, Phipps said, adding that this should be brought to the attention of the Monarch.
Section 4 of the Judicial Committee Act 1833
“His Majesty may refer any other Matters to Committee. It shall be lawful for His Majesty to refer to the said Judicial Committee for hearing or consideration any such other matters whatsoever as His Majesty shall think fit; and such Committee shall thereupon hear or consider the same, and shall advise His Majesty thereon in manner aforesaid.”