Jamaica Observer / During these several years, I have searched unceasingly to try to find the true reason the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has so stubbornly set its face against us doing away with the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom as our final court of appeal and subscribing fully to the twin jurisdictions of the Caribbean Court of Justice. My inner search has long been unsuccessful, until now. Eureka! I am now satisfied that the deep-seated reason has finally manifested itself.
The JLP has never been fazed by the strength of the stated positions in favour of exiting the Privy Council — a distance of 5,000 miles away in the United Kingdom; the prohibitive expense which can be afforded by only a minute percentage of our people; the provision in the establishing treaty which obliges the Caribbean Court of Justice to be an itinerant tribunal; the acknowledged integrity of that court; and, indeed shamelessly, not even the not-so-subtle entreaty of a president of the Supreme Court of the erstwhile “Mother Country” to allow their judges to employ their time and expertise in dealing with matters that are of concern to their own people, among other reasons.
The framers of the treaty establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice struggled and ultimately succeeded in finding a mechanism that is meant to insulate the judiciary from outside influence, including, most importantly, from political influence. The Preparatory Committee, of which I was a member, listened to, and obeyed, the voices that advocated so strongly in that regard, including the Jamaican Bar Association.
And yet, the wisdom of the ages has shown that no amount of diligence in seeking to entrench provisions to that effect in a constitution or in an enabling treaty can prevent men and women, who are so inclined, from interfering with the independence of the judiciary.
Recent events have provided an abundance of evidence that leaders in the JLP are far too inclined and eager to eschew established legal and constitutional principles. Recall the Public Service Commission/Solicitor General episode of 2007; the Manatt/Dudus costly debacle; the pre-signed, undated letters of resignation demanded of would-be senators; and the ongoing acting chief justice issue.
By their action, those in the leadership of the JLP have shown themselves all too unwilling to abide by established conventions and legal principles and have obviously convinced themselves that there are others who are of like mind.
Such individuals are not in a position to interfere in the affairs of the United Kingdom Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and, as such, it is clear that, for the JLP, it is better that Jamaica remains tied to that court.
What utterly puerile and dangerous thinking!
Arnold J Nicholson is a former attorney general and justice minister.