Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Gov't seeking Parliament's approval for CCJ agreement
Observer Reporter
Wednesday, February 12, 2003

PATTERSON... signed agreement last year

THE Government has decided to seek parliamentary ratification of the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which Prime Minister P J Patterson and other regional leaders signed in early 2002.

"It was decided it would be ratified and (accordingly) a ministry paper is to be tabled in Parliament," Information Minister Burchell Whiteman told reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet briefing at Jamaica House on Monday.

ANTHONY... supports body to appoint judges to court

Whiteman also announced that the administration has agreed to authorise the Caribbean Development Bank to borrow "Jamaica's contribution" to establish a US$100-million trust fund to finance in perpetuity the operations of the CCJ.

Caribbean Community (Caricom) political leaders have argued that the proposed regional court is necessary to arbitrate trade disputes that may arise under the imminent Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). In addition, they insist that it is a logical consequence of the decolonisation process for the region to establish its own final appellate court in place of the United Kingdom-based Privy Council.

WHITEMAN... a ministry paper is to be tabled in Parliament

However, while the proposed regional court has enjoyed a more favourable reception in other Caricom territories, in Jamaica the parliamentary Opposition and the Jamaican Bar Association have advocated the holding of a referendum before the decision is taken to de-link from the Privy Council.

But the Patterson administration has argued that there is no constitutional requirement for the holding of a referendum at this stage, pointing out that only a majority vote in both houses of Parliament was necessary to sever Jamaica's link with the Privy Council. Notwithstanding, the administration concedes that after its introduction, the CCJ should be entrenched in the Constitution by way of a referendum.

The Cabinet's decision to seek Parliamentary ratification of the CCJ treaty brings the establishment of the court closer to reality and in line with the governing party's pledge contained in its manifesto for last October's general elections.

So, too, does the move by the CDB to establish the trust fund, which was one of the recommendations of the Jamaican Bar to insulate the court from external influence, political or otherwise.

Whiteman reported yesterday that regional heads of government agreed last July to "the establishment of a trust fund to fund the Caribbean Court of Justice, with a one-time settlement of US$100 million to secure the financing of the Court for all time".

Apparently all Caricom member states will contribute to the seeding of the CCJ trust fund by underwriting a portion of the loan from the CDB. However, Whiteman could not say Monday what was going to be Jamaica's loan liability to the CDB.

In addition to these developments, regional governments are moving to set up a body that will have the responsibility to appoint judges to the CCJ. This was mooted to the Jamaican Cabinet by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of St Lucia, who has responsibility for governance and legal issues among the conference of heads of governments.