SHOW SOME INDEPENDENCE

Once again, government plans to table a Bill replacing the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

Once again, Opposition daggers have been drawn and lines etched in the sands of judicial preferences.  Why?  Why are we so anxious to cling to an anachronism that gives foreigners to our problems the final word on the interpretation of our laws? 

Why does government persist in taking the coward’s way out? It keeps saying it wants to abolish the Privy Council but acts as if the opposite is true thus forcing the JLP to be the “bad cop” in this judicial debate.  It’s my opinion the PNP doesn’t want to see the back of the Privy Council any more than the JLP does but is paying lip service to its abolition so as to keep itself firmly lodged on the fence.

Why do I state this opinion so confidently?  If the PNP really wanted to abolish the Privy Council, it could do so tomorrow by way of a simple majority in Parliament.  The problem lies not in the Privy Council’s abolition but in the legislative method used to replace it with some new court.  If the government really wants to abolish the Privy Council, It should simply abolish it.

Jamaica would be left with its Court of Appeal as the court of final recourse so government could politely ask the Opposition (or the people by referendum) whether a new replacement court is wanted and, if yes, which court.  You see, there’s no magic in the CCJ.  It’s almost as foreign a court as the Privy Council.  It’s preferable to the Privy Council only due to its greater accessibility.  Once the people vote for CCJ or Jamaican Court of Appeal, give the people what they want.  Retention of a final court located in a foreign country that requires all visitors to apply for visas and spend large fortunes to attend just isn’t a realistic option.

                   “Every man thinks his burden is the heaviest.                                             But (ooh, yea, come on) they know because they feel.                                  And who feels it knows it, Lord.                                                                          Who feels it knows it, Lord.

It’s ironic that this ongoing argument should once again raise its head at a time when the U.K. has finally successfully deported Abu Qatada.  Both readers know I’ve been tracking this Abu Qatada story from the outset. 

In 1993, Omar Mahmoud Othman, a Jordanian, entered Britain on a forged United Emirates passport. Alleging torture by Jordanian authorities, he sought political asylum. He succeeded in 1994; changed his name to Abu Qatada; and became a radical Muslim cleric.

His alleged preachings to the U.K.’s growing Muslim community included:

·        (1994) calling on British Muslims to martyr themselves in a holy war on oppression;

·        (1995) issuing “fatwa” to kill Algerian converts from Islam;

·        (1999) calling for the killing of Jews and praising attacks on Americans.

In 1999, he was convicted in Jordan, in absentia, of two terrorist conspiracies.  In 2002, the British detained him under the Anti-Terrorism Act.  In 2005, after that Act was repealed, he was released on bail but subject to a control order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.  The U.K. then started deportation proceedings.

Then the fun began.  As European Union (EU) residents, persons like Abu Qatada can appeal the decisions of England’s highest courts to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which has repeatedly blocked England’s attempts to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan on the grounds that he might be tortured if returned to his native land.  For 8 years, the British Government was forced to house and feed Qatada, firstly in a rent-free Council Home plus £1,000 per month of benefits then, when he was caught breaching bail conditions by using a cell phone, in Belmarsh prison.

                   “Don’t sit by your window gazing at the streets.                                          Just get up and move get right on your feet.
Just get up and move (brothers).                                                       Get right in the groove (sisters).

Eventually, Britain was forced into a 24-page mutual legal assistance treaty with Jordan, containing a key passage stating where there are “serious and credible allegations that a statement from a person has been obtained by torture” it wouldn’t be used in a court.

                   “For linger you linger, die you must die.                                                     Now don’t point your fingers and you’ll get by.                                           No no no don’t lie; don’t cry…..

The long legal battle cost an economically weak Britain £647,658 in legal aid for the terror suspect and more than £1m in government costs. As his private plane took off from RAF Northolt, Home Secretary Theresa May (who had undertaken several embarrassing begging missions to Jordan) said: “I’m glad this government’s determination to see him on a plane has been vindicated… we’ve at last achieved what previous governments, parliament and the British public have long called for. This dangerous man has been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country.

PM David Cameron wasn’t far behind saying Qatada’s continued presence in Britain made his “blood boil”.

                   “And Who feels it knows it; who feels it knows it.                                                 Every night and every day, who feels it knows it.                                       By their blood and sweat they pay.                                                                     Who feels it knows it yea..

Abu Qatada was quiet but lethal.  Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri were far more visible and audible Islamic representatives but Qatada, who almost never spoke in English even in private, was considered the most dangerous Islamic radical in the UK.

Both Cameron and May said the case would trigger a change in the UK’s relationship with the ECHR.

I’m also clear that we need to make sense of our human rights laws and remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport,” said May.

Asked whether the UK should withdraw from the ECHR, Cameron said: “Frankly when it comes to these cases I don’t rule anything out…...”

                   “Dont be no moon-shine darling                                                                           and sit down and cry.                                                                                        And please dont you give up now                                                                        before you give it a try.                                                                                     Before you give it a try.                                                                Come on Give it a try, try, try…

Groups change their names and identities for all sorts of reasons.  Youngsters just coming to the music game are sometimes fooled into believing they’re listening to what has become, for example “Bob Marley and the Wailers”, a Chris Blackwell creation, when in fact they’re listening to the original authentic group known simply as The Wailers or, sometimes, The Wailing Wailers.  The original Wailers included more than founders, Bob, Peter and Bunny.  Bob had a short-lived solo career with Leslie Kong (already famous as Derrick Morgan’s “Chineyman” according to Prince Buster) where he recorded “Judge Not’ and “One Cup of Coffee” before joining with Bunny, Peter and soon thereafter Junior Braithwaite (lead singer on many of the early hits); Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith.

Who Knows It was recorded in 1966.  The lyrics were written by Bunny Wailer who also took the lead on the record.  My dimming memory tells me Bob wasn’t even on this record as he might have been off the Island at the time – point being that The Wailers did record without Bob.  Then came Blackwell, commerce trumped all else and “Bob Marley and the Wailers” was born absent all of the original Wailers except Bob.

Still, “He who feels it, knows it” is an eternal truism.  The U.K’s through its bitter experience with its attempted deportation of Abu Qatada has felt the crack of the whip of a foreign court on its sovereign policy.  Now it knows it must alter its relationship with the ECHR.

In Jamaica, we know we must stop Privy Council appeals.  We have everything we need to do so.  Will it take the Privy Council’s overturning of an extradition or deportation order removing a notorious terrorist from Jamaica for us to do what must be done?  How many more times is the Privy Council going to be permitted to spit in the face of succeeding Jamaican governments on the capital punishment issue?  It has repeatedly defied our governments (who are simply implementing clear mandates from Jamaicans) to the point where capital punishment, although still on our Statute Books, has effectively been judicially repealed by that august body.

                   “You gave I King James Version.
King James was a white man.
You built I dangerous weapons
To kill I own black man
You sold the land God gave I
And taught I to be covetous
What other wicked things
Have you got in mind?
Tell me, what’re you gonna do
To stop these daily crimes?

We’ve felt the foreign whip for 400 years.  That whip kept us in the fields.  Then it kept us as indentured apprentices.  Then it hanged Paul Bogle and George William Gordon.  Then it kept us as low level civil servants.  Gradually, we’ve risen to the point where we believe we’re independent and control our own destiny.  But the unseen hand still wields the whip.  The most fundamental fulcrum of any society is its legal system.  Still, the foreign whip interprets our laws; speaks authoritatively to resolve our commercial disputes; has the last word on our property rights.

                   “Bring back Macabee Version
that God gave to black man.
Tek back King James Version
that belongs to the white man.

                Black man, get up, stand up
‘pon you foot
and give Black God the glory.                                                                                Black man get up stan’ up pon you foot.                                                              I sey to give Rasta de glory.

Maxwell Livingston Smith (“Max Romeo”) worked on a Clarendon sugar plantation before moving to Kingston and writing some powerful lyrics including those included in his seminal hit Mackabee Version.  He understood.

But do we?  Are we truly free?  Do we feel the whip?  If we feel it; will we know what to do?  If we know what to do, will we take that first step towards real freedom?  And, with it, real responsibility?  Or, subconsciously, do we believe what they say which is that we can run fast; jump high; play sports; but we just can’t take on “big people business”?

It’s Independence weekend.  Let’s be independent.  

Peace and Love

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