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Holness urged to be clear on CCJ before regional meeting

Published:Monday | June 27, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is being urged to reassess his administration's position on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), especially in light of the vote by the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) and the reasons behind it.

According to Densil Williams, international economics professor at the University of the West Indies, the issue needs to be dealt with "urgently".

His call comes less than a week before Holness faces fellow Caribbean leaders at a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government Conference summit and less than a week after the Brexit vote.

"We now need to start looking very seriously at the referendum on the CCJ. With the Brexit movement now in an upsurge in the UK, it will have implications for border control and other things. How are you going to deal with a court that is domiciled in the UK and you may have people who are not able to go to that court?" he told The Gleaner.

"That is why there is an urgency now for us to deal with the CCJ issue, because we really don't know what the future may hold with the rise in the Brexit movement in the UK. If we have to go for a referendum with the CCJ, let us do it quickly; if we're not, let us deal with it through the Parliament."

The Brexit movement - Britain's exit from the EU - was fuelled largely by concerns over immigration and what supporters argue was the increasing dominance of Brussels, where the EU is headquartered, over London.

Only three of the 15 member states of the CARICOM have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ. They removed the UK-based Privy Council to adopt the CCJ.

Holness' Jamaica Labour Party, while in Opposition, was against moves to replace the Privy Council, did not support parliamentary efforts, and called for the issue to be put to a referendum.

Since its election to office in February, the administration's only position on the matter came in April following the Throne Speech when Kamina Johnson Smith, foreign affairs and foreign trade minister, told The Gleaner the matter was "not on the legislative agenda for this year".




Nonetheless, Mark Golding, the opposition spokesman, who, as justice minister last year, was central to the failed efforts to replace the Privy Council, says there is hope the Labour Party's position would shift.

"I note that their position on CARICOM has evolved. Whereas from time to time they have been fairly hostile in some of their pronouncements to the concept of a single market and economy and the CARICOM project, in more recent times both Minister [Karl] Samuda and the prime minister have indicated the importance to Jamaica's economy of having trade with CARICOM," he said.

"They recognised the importance of CARICOM. I'm hoping that as their consciousness on these issues evolve, they would also see the benefits of having a regional final court of appeal that is (more) accessible."

Holness is on record as saying the Privy Council is one of Jamaica's "greatest assets".

Antigua and Barbuda is to vote in a referendum soon, while Grenada's Parliament last week approved legislation to replace the Privy Council.

The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines voted against a new constitution in 2009 that supported the CCJ.