Mon | Mar 4, 2024

Gordon Robinson | Privy Council hypocrisy

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2023 | 12:07 AM
External view of the UK Supreme Court. Gordon Robinson writes: This is a test of our ability to let go of the self loathing branded on our national psyche by slavery and colonialism.
External view of the UK Supreme Court. Gordon Robinson writes: This is a test of our ability to let go of the self loathing branded on our national psyche by slavery and colonialism.

If you didn’t know you know now that our former enslavers have really done a job on us.

For centuries we were indoctrinated in Anglo-Saxon superiority using educational tools such as whips, rifles and nooses. This putrid programming was accompanied with imprisonment of literacy and, in case literacy escaped, books. Enslavers became colonizers but the instruction continued. As self-appointed benevolent dictators, England ensured we understood England knew what was good for us. We, as civilization’s infants, needed England’s guidance and control to grow into cultured, English gentlemen and ladies. To that end, our dictators exported their laws and legal systems to Jamaica where brainwashed, grateful former slaves adopted, enforced and practised them with zeal.

After Hurricane Charlie’s infrastructural damage cost our colonizers upwards of £2,000,000 in the 1950s England decided there must be a better, less expensive way to control its less-than-lily-white subjects in Jamaica. So it offered an illusion called “Independence” and crafted an independence constitution for Jamaica (and other former colonies) that ensured England was independent from paying for Jamaica but its mind control continued.

A key institution to ensure the continuation of control was the Privy Council (PC) which was retained as Jamaica’s final court of appeal. By this method England ensured Jamaica’s laws never departed from English values and attitudes and Jamaica never introduced new laws that offended those values. So a “savings law clause’ was written into our Constitution that protected all previous English law. England didn’t necessarily expect our legislation would lag so far behind English legal evolution but, still, PC remained to ensure any divergence was corrected by judicial imprimatur.

Norman Manley accepted PC’s temporary, unentrenched presence because, at the time, a Caribbean Court wasn’t sufficiently advanced to be a practical replacement. But his idea was to abandon PC as soon as that lacuna disappeared. The first Caribbean PM to propose to a CARICOM Heads of Government Conference that appeals to PC should be abolished and a Caribbean court established in its place was Edward Philip George Seaga who did so in 1988. The next year his JLP lost a general election since which time he has stoutly opposed the change. My belief is he simply didn’t trust Michael Manley to manage the transition properly. Since then the issue has become a perennial political punting party.

In 2001 Norman Manley’s vision became reality as CCJ was created on February 14. In 2004 Government passed legislation abolishing appeals to PC and replacing it with CCJ. Several leading Jamaicans and Jamaican groups litigated the issue which PC eventually decided against the Government thereby securing Jamaican law as its fiefdom.

Recent resurgence of a spreading impatience with this intolerable situation was fuelled by Government’s inadequate attempts at a fake constitutional reform process. A recent Gleaner editorial supported the move to replace PC. To many legal professionals’ shock and amazement the current PC President, Lord Reed, entered the extra-judicial fray with a Letter to The Gleaner first published online as Letter of the Day at six minutes after midnight on November 23. The document amounts to an impertinent interference with Jamaican governance by way of a plaintive appeal to us to keep the court.

I opine this despite Lord Reed’s self-serving assertion to the contrary:

“Let me start by saying that I, and the other judges on the JCPC, regard it is an honour to serve the people of Jamaica as your highest court. This is a major responsibility and one that the court takes very seriously. The decision on whether to retain the JCPC is entirely one for the Jamaican Government and people. We will continue to consider it a privilege to serve as the final court of appeal, unless and until Jamaica decides otherwise.”

Rubbish!

First, Jamaica didn’t invent the allegation that PC doesn’t want to serve. That was stated by former PC President Lord Nicholas Phillips, Baron of Worth Matravers and first President of the newly branded UK Supreme Court, who urged Caribbean nations to establish their own final court.

Second this is the same PC that blocked Jamaica’s attempt to replace it (a foreign court not entrenched in Jamaica’s Constitution) with CCJ on the basis that CCJ wasn’t entrenched in the Jamaican Constitution. So PC’s position is that, if it’s to be replaced by another foreign court, that court must be entrenched in Jamaica’s constitution. That attitude is beyond asinine; a clear exhibition of contempt for Jamaican “independence”; and the most obvious exposure of Lord Reed’s mealy-mouthed pretence that PC only wants to serve “until Jamaica decides otherwise” as the hypocritical horse manure it really is. KMT!

Lord Reed also makes this facile argument:

“Your editorial also mentions the difficulty and expense of having to travel to London for hearings. I would like to convey to your readers that the court is not as remote or inaccessible as they may have imagined. For example, we offer hearings online, so that lawyers can address us from their offices in Jamaica, without having to incur the time and expense involved in travelling to London.”

Well, goody, goody two shoes! Since COVID-19 the concept of online court hearings has taken on all over the world. To be fair to PC, it offered them even before COVID-19. But “offer” and reality isn’t always the same thing. According to Lord Reed eight appeals were heard by PC in 2022/23. Based on my research NOT ONE was heard online. Counsel appeared in person in every single one!

In the famous case of The General Legal Council et al v JAMBAR (POCA rules for lawyers’ case) NINE lawyers travelled to London for the appeal. There was a 10th but, due to last minute personal issues, she couldn’t make the trip.

There were numerous other travel related challenges. One Counsel discovered at the last minute that her visa had expired and had to jump through hoops to get a renewal. She arrived three days after the others. There were flight cancellations which resulted in some Counsel (from both sides) having to be re-routed through New York.

JAMBAR’s lawyers paid English Solicitors £10,000 to file appeal papers and another £2,000 to appear with them at the hearing. Plane tickets cost US$2,000 plus each. Hotel accommodation for all nine approximated £10,000.

Sounds pretty “remote and inaccessible” to me! Or anybody I represent.

But PC’s real concern was inadvertently exposed in Lord Reed’s letter:

“Some of the most important cases for the development of the common law around the world are decided by the Privy Council on appeal….”

There it is. Right THERE! Yet I hear popular radio talk show hosts propounding that the letter isn’t advocacy for PC’s retention. Bah. Humbug! PC very much understands its continuing role in mental slavery of former colonies and very much wants to keep on trucking.

So why would anyone expect anything different from a Judge like Lord Reed steeped in imperial superiority and a patronising belief former colonies still need guidance? Jamaicans currently fawning gratefully at Lord Reed’s attempt at subliminal subjugation seem oblivious to the embarrassment they are causing to those of us with even a smidgeon of historical recall. Most of us aren’t fooled by Lord Reed’s mealy-mouthed attempt to divide and rule.

But it’s working. Tribalists have already discarded all pretence at patriotism in favour of using Lord Reed’s patronizing patter to support their party’s reluctance to embrace CCJ. The most inane response I’ve read on social media came from someone using the handle Stelor (@orecost):

“The legal eagles in Jamaica fear their excesses in the courts will be exposed by the law-lords, whereas in the regional courts their classmates will rule in their favour.”

Jesus H. Christ on a Japanese crutch! How low can you go for probable political profit? This unmerited attack on regional Judges’ integrity is sufficiently disgraceful. But, Silly Billy, your thoughtlessness is even worse and should embarrass you. The regional court’s “classmates” are most likely to appear on both sides of the appeal. Which side will the Judges favour?

What “excesses” is Stelor on about? Only lawyers whose “excesses” haven’t worked in local courts would be appealing to CCJ. Sheesh!

But this isn’t an economic issue. This isn’t a judicial talent issue. This isn’t a means of political pandering. This is a test of our ability to let go of the self loathing branded on our national psyche by slavery and colonialism. We’ve been taught to hate ourselves and distrust our ability to conduct our affairs. We’ve been programmed that white supremacy is righteousness so we must submit to that horrific mental cruelty’s dictates.

Our patriotic task is to love ourselves as God advised. If we do that anything is possible.

Peace and Love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com