JAMAICA Repeatedly Warned by UK to Leave The Privy Council Says AJ Nicholson

JAMAICA  Repeatedly Warned  by UK to Leave The Privy Council Says AJ Nicholson

KINGSTON, OCTOBER 8, 2023 - One does not easily depart from the expressed view of Dr Lloyd Barnett on issues relating to the Jamaican Constitution. I am however persuaded that he would readily acknowledge that there is always room for another considered viewpoint, another reasonable perspective. 

Former Justice Minister and Attorney General A. J. NicholsonFormer Justice Minister and Attorney General A. J. NicholsonAt the recent annual People's National Party (PNP) conference, Opposition Leader Mark Golding, who is also president of that political party, stridently affirmed that the Opposition would not support the governing party's agenda for Jamaica to move away from the monarchy before delinking from the monarch's Court.

Dr Barnett, a member of the Constitutional Reform Committee mandated to facilitate that agenda coming into effect, is reported to have described the position emphasized by the Opposition Leader as "concerning" and could cause the reform process to "stall".

Jamaica is conclusively bound to leave the Privy Council, as several times directed and warned by the United Kingdom authorities; and veritably, the only possible alternative is the internationally acclaimed Caribbean Court of Justice. 

He summed up the reform hurdles: "We have the King of England as our head of state. The second is that our Constitution is contained in an instrument made in England. And the third is our final court of appeal is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is a colonial institution".

To clear those hurdles, he suggests: "And although I support strongly the removal of these vestiges of colonialism, I say that if I am tied and I can release two of my limbs or three of my limbs then the fact that the fourth is not released does not convince me that I shouldn't get the ones that I can have released".

That would be considered sound logic sufficient to ground a reasoned personal conclusion. Respectfully, however, when Mark Golding addressed the party conference, he did so wearing the hat of Opposition Leader and party president, his primary duty being the pursuit of the best interests of the Jamaican people, not his own or his party's personal preference.

In contemplating public matters, importantly, including constitutional reform issues, the paramount question for the leadership of both the governing and opposition parties is: Which decision will have the greatest impact in making the lives of the people, their employers, better?

If they should apply any substitute formula - personal, partisan, political or any other - they would be grossly derelict. That is precisely what has happened in the case of Andrew Holness' governing party, stubbornly demanding that the opposition party support their insuppportable stance of abandoning the people's interests.

Demonstrably, of the "vestiges of colonialism" to be removed for decolonization to be reached, there is only one that will bring too-long-denied benefit to the people of Jamaica. Removing the King as head of state, and patriating our Constitution, highly symbolic of the country's striving for full independence as those initiatives represent, will have no positive impact on improving the lives, particularly, of the less privileged citizens.

It is downright impossible for the overwhelming majority of the citizens of politically independent Jamaica, descendants of slaves, to live comfortably and at ease with the consistent declaration by descendants of the slave masters and colonial overlords that, alongside the visa barrier, we are no longer welcome in their temple of Justice - a directive unashamedly ignored by our rulers in the governing party.

On the other hand, abolition of the Privy Council from Jamaica’s affairs, and embracing the accessible, affordable regional Caribbean Court of Justice will ensure positive life-changing outcomes, banishing longstanding deprivation.

Both segments of government - ruling party and Opposition - having placed their respective positions squarely on the table, let us examine the impact of each position on the lives and interests of our citizens.

The overriding factor that influences the decision-making process of Jamaica's removal from the Privy Council has its base in an external source, which is, the constant strong insistence by the United Kingdom authorities that the rearrangement should take place. The choice is not ours.

It is downright impossible for the overwhelming majority of the citizens of politically independent Jamaica, descendants of slaves, to live comfortably and at ease with the consistent declaration by descendants of the slave masters and colonial overlords that, alongside the visa barrier, we are no longer welcome in their temple of Justice - a directive unashamedly ignored by our rulers in the governing party.

Prime Minister Holness' party leadership have long forcefully signalled their unwillingness for that shame and embarrassment to be expelled and, as Dr Barnett knows more than most, have even been prepared to commit the shocking violation of meddling with the Senate membership provision of the Constitution in order to stymie a properly founded legislative initiative to rid Jamaicans of the hurting stigma.

Settling their own agenda for the reform of the Constitution, the governing party have brushed aside the urgency of the well-documented, widely known intolerable conditions that have long beset the apex of our judicial system, depriving generations of the privilege of unimpeded access to their final court for near 200 years.

The reform process stalled some two decades ago with the former Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader, Edward Seaga, Holness' mentor, announcing their sharp departure from the mature, visionary consensus that had existed for years.

Mark Golding, at the recent party conference, dutifully reminded all Jamaica of the imperative that, without exception, pursuit of the people's interests takes pride of place, and that the party which he leads is not prepared to abandon that obligation, rooted as it is in an unshakable principle.

Another dimension which cannot by any means be overlooked or discounted is the incontrovertible evidence that, despite constant prodding, the present governing party has never given any reason for continuing on their projected agenda, their reason, whatever it might be, remaining entombed.

The nagging question has been: What on Earth does it profit the JLP leadership, politically or otherwise, to continue the blockage and withholding of the long overdue benefit that the transition will bring to the people who place their sacred trust in them?

Light yellow background

Abolition of the Privy Council from Jamaica’s affairs, and embracing the accessible, affordable regional Caribbean Court of Justice will ensure positive life-changing outcomes, banishing longstanding deprivation.

Since that fateful stalling decision, they have given no indication of supporting Jamaica's embrace of the regional court. On the contrary, they claim to have "not yet decided". After all these years they are still "discussing". How, then, can there be trust or confidence that there will be anything other than "discussion" during Phase TWO of their agenda?

Jamaica is conclusively bound to leave the Privy Council, as several times directed and warned by the United Kingdom authorities; and veritably, the only possible alternative is the internationally acclaimed Caribbean Court of Justice.

The Prime Minister, we are told, will "in short order" address these matters in Gordon House. Should the concentrated clamour not be for him to emerge, comfortably redeemed, to invite the Opposition Leader to urgently sit with him for them to maturely ponder together, with the immediate focus of getting those two easily-accomplished inescapables behind us?

Dr Barnett reminds that "it will be extremely difficult for...progress to be made without bipartisan support" which, significantly, could never be based on the JLP's pursuit of some agenda which is foreign to the people's best interests.

The analogy that he used in his suggested solution demonstrates that he was speaking from a personal perspective, a privilege shared by all in this practising democracy. That is however not open to Mr Holness and Mr Golding in the proper practice of democratic governance.

On this issue, Mark Golding, leader of the Opposition, is, respectfully, on the correct path from which his party has never veered since before and after the constitutional reform process stalled over two decades ago with Andrew Holness' party shelving the obligatory concern for the people's interests.

For our people, surely, a progressive moment of epiphany, not further stalling, is what is urgently, and justifiably, needed.

AJ NICHOLSON.


Print  

Author’s Posts