KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday October 27, 2015 – Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding had challenged the Opposition to bring a copy of a letter it claims it has confirming that the Privy Council is available to sit in Jamaica.
The letter has been the centre of a controversy that saw Senator Marlene Malahoo-Forte being suspended from the Senate, after she failed to produce it despite requests from Senate President Floyd Morris.
“The Opposition needs to produce this letter, which apparently they have, which is an official letter , without any further delay, and I think it’s quite proper that Senator Marlene Malahoo-Forte has been suspended from attending the Senate until she does so,” Senator Golding said as he addressed a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.
At last Thursday’s sitting of the Upper House, in her contribution to the debate on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Malahoo-Forte read into the records of the Senate, a letter which she claims confirms the willingness of the Privy Council to sit in Jamaica. It was a response to government’s contention that because the CCJ is an itinerant tribunal, this would reduce the cost to Jamaicans and ensure access to justice.
Both the President of the Senate and Senator Golding requested a copy of the letter that Malahoo-Forte read and the president further directed her to provide the Senate with a copy. When the latter was not produced the following day, Morris, in accordance with the rules of the Standing Orders, successfully moved a motion for the Senator to be suspended until the document is provided.
Golding said he is “anxious to see what this letter says”.
“From our point of view (the Privy Council) is not an itinerant court; it is not set up to sit outside the United Kingdom. It is true that they have occasionally sat outside of the UK; I believe they have done it in Mauritius and the Bahamas. Those were ad hoc appearances set up to hear particular matters, and not to dispose of the entire list of cases that were before them from the Bahamas and, were indeed, at great expense to the government and people of the Bahamas,” he noted.
Golding explained that the expenses included the payment of first class tickets to and from the UK for the five judges and their support staff, provision of accommodation, logistical arrangements and the provision of security.
“We don’t feel that those ad hoc arrangements . . . constitute proper arrangements for affording access to justice. The CCJ is established to provide access to the people of the region. Its rules contemplate it moving from territory to territory to hear cases,” he insisted.
The Senate started its debate on the three Bills, which seek to make the CCJ Jamaica’s finale appellate court, on October 16.
The Bills are the Constitution (Amendment) (Caribbean Court of Justice) Act 2015; the Judicature (Appellate Jurisdiction) Act, 2015, and the Caribbean Court of Justice Act, 2015.
They are seeking to delink Jamaica from the Judicial Committee of the UK Privy Council, and to become part of the CCJ in its Appellate Jurisdiction.