"The Opposition is now being given three months to reflect collectively and individually, and do the honourable and logical thing of agreeing to support Jamaica establishing the CCJ as our final court," she stated.
A House vote on whether the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) should be replaced by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Jamaica's final appellate court will not be taken until April 28, because of a constitutional requirement that there be a three-month break between the closing of the debate and voting on the bills.
In closing the debate on Tuesday in the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller insisted that government's efforts to adopt the CCJ, by way of a two-thirds majority in Parliament on the three Bills she tabled in July to facilitate the process, was the right thing to do.
She pointed out that “the positions taken by the Opposition JLP over these years have shown great inconsistency, including the position that they have the right to do away with the ruling of the Judicial Committee – a ruling that it (The JLP) had sought from the Judicial Committee, with the help of taxpayers’ money.”
The Prime Minister explained “when the matter went before the Judicial Committee, the lawyer who represented the Jamaica Labour Party argued, and the Judicial Committee accepted, that the procedure for Jamaica to accede to the CCJ was by way of a two-thirds majority vote in each House.”
She pointed out that “these Bills represent exactly what the JLP’s legal representative had submitted before the Judicial Committee.
Now, the Opposition says that it has the right to demand how it should be done, to lay down the procedure to be adopted, and to do away with what the Privy Council has ruled.
So, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is prepared to tell the Judicial Committee that they are not prepared to abide by its ruling and is instead, putting in place “its own requirements and demands,” she said.
“Mr. Speaker, that is perhaps the most unfortunate stance for any entity to adopt in the practice of the democratic system of government.
We must be prepared to abide by the ruling of our final court regardless of whether we agree or disagree with its ruling…. It is not only most unfortunate, it is disingenuous, and is not in keeping with the orderly functioning of the society,” The Prime Minister lamented.
However, Opposition Leader Andrew Holness is insisting that his party would only support a domestic court of appeal populated by local judges, and that a decision on the CCJ must be made via a referendum. His position is in spite of the Privy Council’s ruling on the matter that all that is required is a two thirds majority vote in each house.
The three pieces of legislation in question are: an Act to make provisions for the implementation of the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice; an Act to amend the Constitution of Jamaica to provide for the replacement of appeals to Her Majesty in Council with new provisions for appeals to the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica's final appellate court; and an Act to amend the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act.
Prime Minister Simpson-Miller told Parliament that lawmakers should not invent partisan reasons not to support a Bill that is brought to the Parliament.
“It is expected that the right thing will be done by the Opposition in the interest of the Jamaican people, particularly the poor,” the Prime Minister said.
The Government needs a two-thirds majority vote in both Houses of Parliament to pass the Bills.
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