February 18, 2005
Déjà vu – A spanner in the wheel from Jamaica

When CARICOM leaders deliberate this weekend in Suriname, one of the foremost issues they must be dealing with is the future of the Caribbean Single market and Economy (CMSE).

This following the Ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that the legislation, passed by the Jamaican Parliament to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in that country, is unconstitutional and void. {{more}}

This ruling has had the impact thus far of postponing the planned signing of the CSME agreement by the Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica.

As it was with the Federation, it is Jamaica once again which has thrown a spanner into the wheel of this move toward Caribbean integration. In Jamaica the opposition Jamaica Labour Party had objected to the government of the People’s National Party (PNP) going along with the rest of the region toward replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ. Ironically, it was to the same Privy Council to which the Jamaicans had to appeal.

The central position of the Privy Council is that the CCJ, as the replacement for the Privy Council could not be validly incorporated into the judicial system of Jamaica except by way of entrenchment in the Constitution of Jamaica. It held that the legislation establishing the CCJ did not entrench the CCJ and therefore could undermine certain provisions in the Jamaican Constitution, that are accorded special protection by being entrenched.

As a release from the CARICOM Secretariat pointed out, “these entrenched provisions could be altered only by employing the special legislative procedure appropriate for altering them and this had not been done by the Jamaican Parliament.”

The release noted that this represents “a significant set back for the establishment of CCJ as the ultimate appellate tribunal in and for Jamaica, and the Jamaican Government is considering how best to respond to this aspect of the judgement.”

The Secretariat also noted that “the ruling of the Privy Council did not differentiate between the exercise by CCJ of its original jurisdiction in relation to the interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, and of its appellate jurisdiction as the ultimate court of appeal for Jamaica.”

It said that this may well be because the Jamaica legislation was an integrated one dealing with both a regional and Appellate Jurisdiction.

By this weekend however, the region should begin to learn what the next move in this chess game will be, even as most governments in the region seem still committed to going forward with the Caribbean Court of Justice and the CSME.