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Now is the time for Jamaica to join CCJ

Barbados Nation

Now is the time for Jamaica to join CCJ

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WHEN THE JUDGMENT in the case Myrie vs Barbados was handed down in October 2013, it was considered a transformational point for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The decision proved to many sceptics, especially in Jamaica, that the court was one which was independent, and of high integrity and strong legal scholarship.

Not only had justice been served, but the CCJ had gone about dealing with this case unlike any the Privy Council in Britain had ever treated to in this region. The decision was hailed in every territory across the region by legislators, the legal profession and, most important, the average citizen, who connected with and understood the ruling. The feeling was that the court had proved itself and the detractors would now get on board.

Concerning regional states which have stayed away from the CCJ – Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica – it was felt that some of the suggestions against joining would have been deemed irrelevant post-Myrie. But the pathway to having the CCJ as the region’s final court of justice still seems uncertain, at least in Jamaica.

The region should this week have a clear picture of where Jamaica stands with the region’s top court. From today, the House of Representatives in Kingston should start debate on legislation which could pave the way for that country to join the CCJ in all its jurisdictions.

Already, it seems as if the vote will be purely along party lines as the leader of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Andrew Holness, has virtually said no to his party’s support. His comments seem well in keeping with the strong anti-Caribbean position the JLP has long promoted.

This is a most unfortunate situation for a country which boasts of more than 50 years of political independence, whose products and people can be found all across the Caribbean, and which can find tangible evidence all across Jamaica of the substantial contribution of people from the “small islands in the south”. 

It is important that Holness and his JLP approach today’s debate open-mindedly and pragmatically on this matter, about which logic and common sense suggest that the CCJ should be his country’s final court in all its jurisdictions. The British Privy Council, which the JLP favours, is far removed, too expensive and does not connect with the Caribbean. 

Neither must the people of Jamaica be misled into believing that a national referendum is necessary to determine whether that country should sign on fully to the CCJ. Our hope is that the Portia Simpson Miller administration be well prepared to present its argument on why the switch is necessary.

It is time for Holness and his team to end the roadblock to Jamaica’s accession to the CCJ and let this be a defining moment for his country. Now is not the time to be left standing in London like lost souls.