CCJ Referendum Not Practical – A.J. Nicholson

Photo: Donald Delahaye Leader of Government Business in the Senate, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, addresses members of the Upper House during his contribution to the debate on the three Bills to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Jamaica’s final appellate body, on November 20.

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, has reiterated the Government’s position that it is not practical to have a referendum on the matter of Jamaica’s accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
  • It is the intention of the Government to separate Jamaica from the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom (UK) Privy Council, and to become part of the CCJ in its Appellate Jurisdiction.
  • Senator Nicolson, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, further argued that none of the 41 countries that have left the Privy Council and established their own court “has gone route of a referendum”.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, has reiterated the Government’s position that it is not practical to have a referendum on the matter of Jamaica’s accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

“Let us tear down this referendum wall. It does not prove to be good sense in history, it is not good sense in logic, it is not practical,” he said while making his contribution to the debate on the three Bills to establish the CCJ as Jamaica’s final appellate body in the Senate on November 20.

It is the intention of the Government to separate Jamaica from the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom (UK) Privy Council, and to become part of the CCJ in its Appellate Jurisdiction.

Senator Nicolson, who is also Leader of Government Business in the Senate, further argued that none of the 41 countries that have left the Privy Council and established their own court “has gone route of a referendum”.

In addition, he contended that Jamaica does not possess the power to implement or enforce a decision to remain with the Privy Council.

“If the people vote to remain with the Privy Council, the power to enforce that vote doesn’t lie here in Kingston – it lies in Whitehall (where the council sits). You can’t have a referendum on something that you don’t control,” he said.

Senator Nicholson also called for the Bills to be passed as quickly as possible. He argued that any Bill that is brought before the Senate ought to be supported where it is shown that: it is not unconstitutional; is not contrary to public morals; does not offend any international agreement or treaty to which Jamaica is a party; and it is in the interest of the people of Jamaica.

“These Bills seek to amend the Constitution of Jamaica, and at the same time would put in place a platform for consensus that would signal such a positive movement on Jamaica’s governance curve…this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a chance that is not likely to come again in a generation and more,” he said.

Government Senator, Imani Duncan Price, in her contribution, also upheld the position that there is no need for a referendum on the issue.

“There is no requirement in law for the staging of a referendum on this issue. The provisions of the Constitution establishing Jamaica’s Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal are not deeply entrenched provisions of the Constitution and as such, the introduction of a third-tier court, does not need to overshoot the level of protection already offered to those courts,” she said.

The Bills being debated are the Constitution (Amendment) (Caribbean Court of Justice) Act 2015; the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 2015, and the Caribbean Court of Justice Act, 2015.

The CCJ Bills were debated and passed on May 12 in the House of Representatives, where the Government enjoys the two-thirds majority needed to have them passed.  The Opposition voted against all three Bills.

The CCJ was established on February 12, 2001 through an agreement signed by the Heads of Government of CARICOM at their 22nd meeting in Nassau. It has two jurisdictions: an appellate and original.

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