OPPOSITION Leader Mark Golding says while his position is that the dual issues of republicanism and membership of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) should be dealt with at the same time, his party has not yet made a decision on the issue.
Answering questions from the press at a briefing at his office at West King’s House Road in St Andrew on Thursday, Golding said that his personal view is that both issues ought to be dealt with at the same time, “and not in a piecemeal fashion”. However, the party position is yet to be decided.
“Jamaica must decolonise once and for all. We are a proud people. We are people with a path coming out of colonialism and slavery, and we need to stand up on our own two feet and be responsible for our destiny. And, I have confidence in the Jamaican people that we can do it if we make the right decision,” he said.
The People’s National Party (PNP) leader pointed out, however, that in terms of whether the Opposition would agree to a ‘deal breaking’ offer to proceed with one and not the other, he would reserve judgement at this time.
“I am not prepared to say what our position will be because, quite frankly; we have not collectively addressed that [issue] within the party. But, as far as I am concerned, and I believe the party fully supports my position on this,” he insisted.
Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte earlier this week had expressed disappointment in the Opposition’s failure to nominate two party members to sit on a Constitutional Reform Committee, which should have been named in the House of Representatives Tuesday.
The bipartisan committee is to advise the Government on a process leading to the country’s transition to a republican system of Government, after 60 years as a Commonwealth dominion. However, the Opposition leader is holding firm that both the executive and judicial branches of Government should be decolonised at the same time.
The Opposition has also shown interest in the details of proposals to make changes to the 2010 Charter of Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom to meet the more recent constitutional challenges.
Malahoo Forte told the House Tuesday that she had considered it unfortunate that the Opposition position of twinning accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to the move to abolish the constitutional monarchy and establish the Republic of Jamaica.
“I thought that when they said that we should complete the move, that they meant it. But, clearly it was plain talk,” she said.
On Thursday, Golding blamed late former Prime Minister Edward Seaga for the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) resistance to joining the full court of the CCJ.
“It is bizarre, and I believe that the rationale for their perspective is given that Mr Seaga continues to cast a long shadow over their thinking, and he was always reluctant to go down the road of a CCJ,” Golding claimed.
“It’s ironic,” the PNP leader told the briefing. “The idea of having a Caribbean Court of Justice as a final court after the federation collapsed originated with [former Prime Minister] Hugh Shearer, at the very beginning of the 1970s”.
He concluded that, some way along the turning, Seaga was turned off indeed and credit him for this; his scepticism and concerns resulted in the Belt & Braces measures being put in place in the decline of the CCJ.
He insisted that there have been changes to the operations of the CCJ, which now has a trust fund to provide adequate financing, and a regional Judicial Services Commission which sets out, “very clearly”, how the judges are appointed and how to keep politicians out of the process. He said that these were among the changes that were made to meet Seaga’s concerns.
“And I am glad that these were done. As as to why today, the JLP is not yet ready to embrace full independence, I don’t understand it. They haven’t articulated that,” Golding commented.
He said that he still believes that there are members within the ranks of the JLP who wish to go the route of the CCJ, and many others who are “wavering”.
“I don’t think that they have achieved consensus on it, but I will continue to encourage them to have confidence in these institutions that we have built. Have confidence in our people, and to take the symbolic step to full decolonisation,” he added.