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Published:Friday | June 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Opposition leader says Gov't making weak attempts at veiling plight of poor

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

IT APPEARS that Jamaica will not be able to make any substantial headway in its quest to replace the Queen as its head of state.

Similarly, it seems unlikely that the country will be able to abolish appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and sign on to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its full jurisdiction.

Andrew Holness, the leader of the opposition, yesterday labelled the proposed changes as distractions.

In making his contribution to the 2012-13 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, Holness said Jamaica has practised "a politics that distracts us from the important focus of building our economy".

"We hear another kind of distraction coming, a kind of distraction about CCJ and Queen. You will have my support when you tell me how CCJ and Queen are going to help end poverty in Jamaica," Holness said.

"For too long, we have been distracted," Holness continued.

holness heckled

But government members, many of whom heckled the opposition leader, rejected his posture.

The governing People's National Party (PNP), in its election manifesto, said it would be moving this year to sign on to the CCJ in both original and appellate jurisdictions.

Last month, in delivering the Throne Speech, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen announced that the Government would be seeking to pass, this year, a bill intended to make the CCJ Jamaica's final court of appeal.

At the time, Holness said the Opposition "will have to examine in detail and engage in significant discussion".

Despite the Government having 42 members in the House of Representatives, compared to the Opposition's 21, the Simpson Miller administration could have difficulties in securing the necessary constitutional amendments to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ as the country's final court of appeal.

securing amendment

In order to amend the Constitution, a two-thirds majority is required in both houses of Parliament.

It means that all Government members in both Houses would have to vote yes, and at least one opposition senator would have to side with the Government in the Senate if a bill to establish the CCJ is to see successful passage.

In the case of moving to republic status, the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority 'yes' vote in the House of Representatives, as well as approval in a referendum.

Holness yesterday said the Opposition "will resist any move to introduce any kind of politics to distract from the important issue of restoring the Jamaican economy".

"Right now, the only focus of any government is to get our debt down, get our revenues up, get growth going, provide education for our people; that is the sole focus now of any government," the opposition leader said.

Simpson Miller, in her inaugural speech as prime minister in January, had declared that the time had come to part with the Queen as head of state.

In March, she signalled that discussions were taking place with the Opposition to determine the way forward on the matter.