For­mer CCJ pres­i­dent urges Ja­maica to avoid Gre­na­dian inf lu­ence

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A FOR­MER pres­i­dent of the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice (CCJ), Michael De La Bastide, has urged Ja­maicans not to be in­flu­enced by last week’s re­jec­tion by Gre­na­di­ans of the court, even as Mark Gold­ing, a strong Jamaican pro­po­nent of the CCJ, con­ceded that the out­come of the St Ge­orge’s ref­er­en­dum was a set­back for its sup­port­ers.

“I think it (the Gre­na­dian vote) un­for­tu­nate and Ja­maica should not fol­low,” De La Bastide, who headed the decade-old court for the first seven years of its ex­is­tence, told The Gleaner yes­ter­day from his home in Port-of-Spain.

Un­like Ja­maica’s, Gre­nada’s con­sti­tu­tion de­mands a ref­er­en­dum for the coun­try to re­move the United King­dom­based Privy Coun­cil as its fi­nal ap­pel­late court for it to ac­cede to the civil and crim­i­nal ju­ris­dic­tion of the CCJ.

That mat­ter was one of sev­eral con­sti­tu­tional changes, in­clud­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­de­pen­dent con­stituen­cies bound­aries com­mis­sion and term lim­its for prime min­is­ters, that Keith Mitchell’s gov­ern­ment put to the peo­ple in the plebiscite. All were roundly de­feated af­ter a par­ti­san and di­vi­sive de­bate, which the op­po­si­tion sought to posit as a test of the Mitchell ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The whole thing was politi­cised, and that is why you do not have a ref­er­en­dum on ju­di­cial is­sues,” said Pa­trick Atkin­son, the at­tor­ney gen­eral in the for­mer Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party (PNP) ad­min­is­tra­tion, which twice failed in ef­forts to join the CCJ.

In its first ef­fort in the mid2000s, the Privy Coun­cil ruled the at­tempt un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Later, while it had the twothirds ma­jor­ity in the Lower House to push the bills, it fal­tered in the Se­nate, where it re­quired at least one Op­po­si­tion mem­ber to side with the Gov­ern­ment.

Gold­ing, the PNP jus­tice min­is­ter at the lat­ter at­tempt, while still har­bour­ing the ideals of the re­gional court, ac­knowl­edged the fur­ther psy­cho­log­i­cal hur­dle now posed by the Gre­nada vote.

“It is a set­back in the sense that we would like all of the Caribbean Com­mu­nity coun­tries to join the CCJ,” he said.

“But the fact that one has voted against it should not mean Ja­maica should not go ahead with it.”

An­drew Hol­ness’s Ja­maica Labour Party, which has in the past op­posed the CCJ, pledged in its man­i­festo for the Fe­bru­ary gen­eral elec­tion to put the mat­ter to Ja­maicans in a ref­er­en­dum but has not broached the is­sue since.

Like Atkin­son, Gold­ing ar­gued that the de­ci­sion by Gre­na­di­ans to vote against sub­scrib­ing to the re­gional court was not nec­es­sar­ily an in­di­ca­tor of their feel­ing about the in­sti­tu­tion it­self. Rather, he said, it was “an in­di­ca­tion that pop­u­la­tions tend to re­ject pro­pos­als put for­ward by the gov­ern­ment of the day or the ‘es­tab­lish­ment’”.

He added: “A ref­er­en­dum is more likely to re­sult in a vote against the po­lit­i­cal class than a vote fo­cus­ing on the spe­cific is­sues on the bal­lot.”


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