Noble ideals must be timely and practical

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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Having already voted overwhelmingly against accepting the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their appeal court of last resort, the Grenadian people, we see, are likely to go through that exercise again some time this year. At least that's the intention of Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.

It will be interesting to see how that vote turns out as, in November 2016, a total of 12,434 Grenadians voted against joining the court, while 9,492 said “yes”.

Prime Minister Mitchell, we are told, believes that the Grenadian people were confused by the number of Bills brought to them in that referendum. He is also reported as saying that the populace did not fully understand the CCJ. As such, he has promised that this time he will be personally engaged in the campaign to secure a “yes” vote for the court to replace the United Kingdom Privy Council.

Putting the matter to a plebiscite is, we believe, the correct way to go, as opposed to politicians taking the decision, which was what the previous Administration in Jamaica wanted to do.

We reiterate our position that the time to replace the UK Privy Council is not yet come, not because the idea of the CCJ is intrinsically wrong, but due to the fact that politicians have shown a propensity for control of the justice system.

The memory of a court battle in St Kitts and Nevis, two years ago, is still fresh in our minds as it gives us reason to be concerned about what will entail if we dispense with the Privy Council at this point in time.

Readers will recall that the then Government of St Kitts and Nevis had wanted to change electoral boundaries a month before the general election. The then Opposition took the matter to court, only for their appeal to be dismissed. Thankfully, the Opposition went to the Privy Council, which ruled that the election must be conducted using the existing boundaries.

The Government at the time argued that the Privy Council decision was at variance with the mood of the ordinary man and woman on the streets of St Kitts and Nevis.

However, as we pointed out in this space before, we doubt that the mood of which the Administration spoke was as widespread as it wanted us to believe because we are not aware of any outpouring of dissent among the general populace to the Privy Council ruling.

Further, the result of the election, in which the then ruling party was crushed, winning only four of the 11 seats contested, suggested that there was general agreement among the people of St Kitts and Nevis with the Privy Council ruling.

The proponents of the CCJ, we hold, have yet to convince the region's peoples that the decision of the court in St Kitts to support the electoral boundaries change was not influenced by political considerations.

Even as we embrace the notion of regionalism, as well as the thought that the CCJ might enrich regional jurisprudence and conceivably be less expensive to access than the Privy Council, we hold firm to the position that the court system in Jamaica needs to be properly repaired and improved before we entertain any thought of the CCJ.

Noble ideals, we reiterate, are good, but they must be timely and practical. The backlog of untried and uncompleted cases here is impossible to obliterate. If there is danger in delay, there is no more danger than in the courts.

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