The main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has said it is not yet prepared to vote on the legislation making the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the island’s highest court replacing the London-based Privy Council.
“Let us set a timeline of 12 months,” Opposition Senator Dr Christopher Tufton told legislators on Friday, dashing any hopes the government would have had of an early vote on the three pieces of legislation.
“For those who say that we have been at this for too long, let me say, that is no justification to now rush and get it wrong,” Tufton said.
The government needs the support of the JLP senators in order to acquire the necessary two-thirds majority to pass the legislation. The JLP has in the past said that it would prefer the issue be put to a referendum.
Tufton told the Senate with the country now preparing for a general election, now is not the time to deal with the CCJ, which was established by regional governments in 2001.
The court also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.
“On the eve of the end of a political cycle, I do not see a vote in this upper chamber taking place and not being unduly influenced by partisan advantage,” Tufton said, adding “that is not necessarily good for the people of Jamaica.
“Maybe we need to have some timeout on this issue. There is a lot that we agree on and I believe that we could discuss them. Let us look at establishing the bipartisan committee to accept the things that we agree on and revisit the things where we have differences,” the Opposition legislator added.
He told Justice Minister Mark Golding, who piloted the three pieces of legislation late last month, that “Minister, if you truly want to avoid politicising our judiciary and, at the same time, give the people a voice in this issue, it is better to seek bi-partisan support and go for consulting the people rather than proceeding the way we are now.
“In our young democracy, history has taught us that where we are divided and politically divisive on national issues, we have suffered as a people. In this instance, it is my conviction that the right side of history is to seek bipartisan support and allow the Jamaican people to be the centre of this process,” Tufton said.
Most of the CARICOM countries are signatories to the Original jurisdiction of the CCJ, however only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the court’s Appellate jurisdiction.