Malahoo Forte hints at J’cans deciding on final Appeal Court if… Loop Jamaica

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Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, is not ruling out the possibility of a referendum being held to determine the contentious issue of which jurisdiction will be Jamaica’s final appellate court.

“When you’re making substantial shifts in the nation, you may sometimes have to make an indicative call from the people, and the matter of the (final appellate) court is a fundamental matter,” declared Malahoo Forte at Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Jamaicans have been divided on the issue, with some strongly supporting the United Kingdom (UK) Privy Council remaining as the island’s final court when the island becomes a republic.

Others believe that the Government should stage a referendum on the matter, a previously that was adopted by the now governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in the past.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, said the People’s National Party (PNP) is not in favour of a referendum to choose the island’s final court, as there is no legal requirement to do so within the country’s constitution.

Moreover, he said Parliament can entrench the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the country’s final appellate court.

In weighing into the matter at the post-Cabinet press conference, Malahoo Forte said if the division remains one where Jamaica’s final court should rest, then Jamaicans will have to be polled on the issue.

“In one breath I’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t take the pulse of the people on it.’ But if we remain as divided as we are, we may have to hear from the people formally,” she maintained.

The minister said in the past, there were three options to choose from relative to the appellate court.

“At one stage there were three options before us, (including) acceding to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

“Believe it or not, there are many Jamaicans who are saying retain the Privy Council in spite of all of the challenges, and I think after the (Vybz) Kartel (appeal) case I see so many discussing the matter,” Malahoo Forte stated.

At the same time, she said some have floated the idea of a local final appeal court.

Meanwhile, Malahoo Forte is maintaining that the decision on Jamaica’s final appellate court will be discussed in phase two of Jamaica’s constitutional reform process, this despite Golding’s insistence that it should be dealt with in phase one.

She said Prime Minister Andrew Holness will respond to Golding’s letter concerning issues taken with recommendations that were made by the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC).

That response is to include Holness’ position regarding Jamaica’s final Court of Appeal.

“The prime minister will respond to the letter sent by the Leader of the Opposition, essentially raising three issues.

“The first had to do with the matter of the final (appeal) court, and we were always of the understanding that having accepted that the process would be phased, (but) what they (the Opposition) required was a clear timeline as to when we would get to the issue, and we said then and say again that the intention always was to get the Bill in to deal with the abolishing of the monarchy as the form of Government, and then begin the work on the final (appeal) court,” said Malahoo Forte.

Golding called on Tuesday for Holness to state his position on whether he would support the CCJ as the country’s final appellate court.

Any change to Jamaica’s final appellate court would require a two-thirds majority vote in both Houses of Parliament.

A prior attempt under the PNP Administration in April 2015 was abandoned, due to a lack of support from the then Opposition JLP.