(Jamaica Observer) Regional Heads of Government who have not yet given the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the green light will be in deep contemplation, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding is suggesting, after both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, by way of a referendum, voted to retain the London-based Privy Council as their final court.
On Tuesday, of the 21, 979 votes cast in Grenada, 9,846 citizens voted to adopt the CCJ as the final Court of Appeal, while in Antigua and Barbuda there were 9,234 votes against and 8,509 votes in favour of the adoption of the CCJ.
On Wednesday, Golding told the Jamaica Observer that Governments will have to think long and hard, given the fact that a referendum is not mandatory in several Caribbean Community (Caricom) member states to make the decision.
“In the case of Grenada an error was made in the previous referendum when they tied it to several other measures — the same thing that St Vincent [and the Grenadines] had done before. But I had thought that now that now that they had taken it out and put it as a single issue that the results might have been different.
“I think it’s going to cause Caribbean leaders [of] those countries that have not yet signed on to the final jurisdiction of the CCJ serious contemplation. [This is] particularly because in some of the countries, as is the case with Grenada and Antigua, a referendum is an absolute requirement. It’s not the case in Jamaica although the prime minister has said that he feels that the issue is so pivotal and so fundamental to our system of Government that he would not be prepared to proceed unless the people support it in a referendum,” said Golding, who was guest lecturer at the Ardenne High School Distinguished 6th Form Lecture.
Almost 50 years ago discussions began to establish a regional final court and in essence do away with the Privy Council— the court of final appeal for the United Kingdom overseas territories and Crown dependencies, and for those Commonwealth countries that have retained the appeal to Her Majesty in Council or, in the case of Republics, to the Judicial Committee.
The CCJ as the region’s final court seeks to settle disputes between Caricom member states, and currently serves as the highest court of appeals on civil and criminal matters for the national courts of Barbados, Belize and Guyana.
The move, those in favour of the CCJ argued, would be a further step towards the regional integration of Caricom member states: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
If Jamaica were to adopt the CCJ as its final court, Golding said public education leading up to the decision would be imperative. A two-thirds majority in both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, as mandated by the Constitution, would be mandatory.
“I don’t think, up to now, despite all the discussions that have taken place in the Parliament and in the media, that Jamaicans have really been engaged in a serious discussion about the matter. I don’t think that there has been any serious public education programme to encourage Jamaicans to find out about it and to come to a position. All of that would have to precede any attempt to get their views by way of a referendum,” he said.