Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bruce Golding may have had a change of heart about the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

Golding seems to have had a change of heart about CCJ

by Oscar Ramjeet

As Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar seems to move further away from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), her Jamaican counterpart, Bruce Golding, may have had a change of heart.

Golding issued a statement a few days ago clarifying his position about the regional court in response to criticism launched against him by the outgoing president of the Court, Michael da la Bastide on his stand against the CCJ. The Jamaican leader said that he never refused to join the court, but needed time to decide. His recent statement is in contrast to earlier comments he made about Jamaica setting up its own final court of appeal.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean 
However, his last statement said that he will meet with opposition leader Portia Simpson Miller to discuss what move Jamaica should take as regards abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. Simpson Miller is all in favour of the regional court.

It is unfortunate that the Trinidad leader, who is a Caribbean trained attorney, is taking such a stand against the CCJ when her party, the UNC, under the leadership of Basdeo Panday, was in the forefront advocating the establishment of the regional court, and it is because of Panday's vigorous stand and upon his request the Court is headquartered in Port of Spain, and most of the technical and support staff are nationals of the twin island republic.

It is also ironic that Jamaica is distancing itself from the regional court when it was under the JLP administration the idea was conceived and its then attorney general Oswald Harding was island hopping with his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, the late Selwyn Richardson, lobbying regional governments to join the court.

It is important that these two large countries in the region join the Court and make full use of the modern facilities available in order to improve local jurisprudence, since so far only three jurisdictions, Guyana, Barbados and Belize, have abolished appeals to the Privy Council.

The Grenada prime minister, who is also a Caribbean trained attorney, has hinted that he will sooner or later initiate steps to join the court, but there is no word from his St Lucian counterpart. However, opposition leader, Kenny Anthony, is a strong advocate for the court, and with elections coming up before year end, there is some hope that Castries will come on board.

St Vincent and the Grenadines lost its referendum for the regional court, but the referendum was packed with other controversial issues, which no doubt was the reason why it failed.

Now that Ralph Gonsalves is back in power for the third consecutive term, he might later down the road try to get the nod of the electorate.

I was reliably informed that the OECS attorneys general had a meeting recently and decided to recommend to their prime ministers for them to include referendum for the CCJ in their general elections. In other words, the electorates will not only vote for a (new) government, but will also decide whether or not to retain the Privy Council as the final court or adopt the Caribbean regional court.

March 26, 2011