KINGSTON: Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has called on the Portia Simpson-Miller administration to sever ties with the UK-based Privy Council and the Queen as Head of State.
During an address at the 76th annual conference of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) last weekend, Patterson said the party should not allow itself to be derailed in the move to become a republic.
He also said Jamaica should “sever the link to an imperial court”, in reference to the Privy Council.
For years, Jamaica has been divided on the issue of whether to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the island’s final appellate court.
As prime minister, Patterson saw to the establishment of a Commission to examine options for reform of the Jamaican Constitution, including the establishment of a Republic.
The discussions between the PNP and the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) broke down on the question of what form of republic Jamaica should become – one with a ceremonial president or an executive president.
The PNP was in favour of an executive presidency, while the JLP wanted a ceremonial president with limited powers.
In 2004, the Privy Council ruled that the manner in which Jamaica had joined the appellate division of the CCJ was unconstitutional. As a consequence, the country has had to continue relying on the Privy Council as its final court of appeal, while utilizing only the original jurisdiction of the court.
Patterson said the party must remain committed “to fulfill the mission on which our Founders embarked 76 years ago, for if we fail, generations to come will not hold us blameless”.
In an address to hundreds of PNP supporters, Simpson-Miller said that the nation is benefitting from her party’s leadership.
“We have taken some tough decisions that have started to bear fruit,” she said. “Today in Jamaica billions of dollars in investment are being pumped into tourism by local and foreign investors.”
Simpson-Miller said the country’s debt was declining and its perception improving among international credit ratings agencies, such as Standard & Poors, which has upgraded Jamaica’s rating from stable to positive.
However, she cautioned that economic independence would take time and that the country needed the involvement of all Jamaicans, locally and overseas, to succeed.