“It’s about Jamaica’s identity, the exercise of its sovereignty and the protection of the legal rights of its citizens,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said on Tuesday, November 25, as she opened debate on the CCJ Bills in the House of Representatives.
She pointed out that the Privy Council is fundamentally inaccessible to the vast majority Jamaicans.
“Litigants and their Jamaican lawyers need visas to travel to the United Kingdom (UK). Visas are not available or granted as a right. Jamaicans are the only people in the entire global structure, who are obliged to seek and obtain visas to access one of the courts.”
She further argued that the costs of retaining UK lawyers for representation in appeals are too high for the vast majority of Jamaicans.
The CCJ, on the other hand, is so designed that it travels to its member countries to hear cases on home soil.
Commenting on the Opposition’s position that Jamaica should establish its own appellate court, Mrs. Simpson Miller argued that “it would be misguided and unwise to have a new home-grown organ as our highest court, without the consistent and predictable budgetary support available to do so.”
“Everyone knows and accepts that the Jamaican court system is already substantially underfunded, and the fiscal reality that gives rise to this understanding is not likely to change anytime soon,” she noted.
In contrast she said the CCJ is fully funded and easily accessible to Jamaicans and will provide further benefits because of its accessibility to Jamaicans.
Concerning a referendum - the Prime Minister said the matter of the CCJ, as Jamaica's final Appeal Court should not be the subject of a referendum.
She said a referendum is a political process and cautioned that issues concerning the countries that were formally a part of the British Empire, have moved away from the Privy Council. These include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica. "Not one of them sought to have the issue put to a referendum," she said.
The government needs the support of the JLP for passage of the bills in both Houses of Parliament to secure passage of the three bills.
“I believe that this House has another opportunity for bipartisan consensus in the interest of the people of Jamaica. The Senate will also have the same opportunity on this matter,” she stated.
The Bills being debated are: An Act to Amend the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, which seeks to amend the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, to repeal provisions for appeals to the Privy Council, and exclude any appeals to the Privy Council instituted prior to implementation of the CCJ; An Act to Amend the Constitution of Jamaica, to amend Section 110 of the Constitution to repeal provisions relating to appeals to the Privy Council and replace them with provisions establishing the CCJ as Jamaica’s final court; and An Act to make provisions for the implementation of the agreement establishing the CCJ as both a court of original jurisdiction, to determine cases involving the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and International treaties, as well as a superior court of record with appellate jurisdiction.
After the Bills have been debated in the Lower House, there is a time period of three months before a vote can be taken. The Government needs a two-thirds majority vote in both Houses of Parliament to pass the Bills.
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