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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More countries showing interest in joining the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

By Oscar Ramjeet:

It is more than four and a half years since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was inaugurated and, so far, no other jurisdiction has joined Guyana and Barbados in accepting the CCJ as the final appellate court.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean.I read with great interest a statement made by St Lucia Oppositon leader, Kenny Anthony, calling for a region wide simultantous move to join the regional court.

He added that he does not believe that any government should go into amending their particular constitution to facilitate accesssion without securing the agreement of the opposition.

I wonder why when politicians are in the opposition they call on government to take action and when they are in power, they do not comply. Anthony was prime minister when the Court was inaugurated in April 2005. In fact he was present at the lavish ceremony in Port of Spain, and he was in government for 20 long months and he failed to set in motion for his country to remove the Privy Council as the final Court and replace it with the CCJ.

Now he is out of government, he wants co-operation between the government and opposition to join the regional court. This a good move on his part, but he should have done so when he was in government.

There are several factors why some countries are/were reluctant to join the regional court. Jamaica for instance, which was in the forefront in the establishment of the Court, lost interest. Former Attorney General Dr Oswald Harding, who is the current President of the Court of Appeal. who was the main advocate for the court in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said that, although Jamaica is contributing 27% towards the operation of the court, no Jamaican has been appointed as judge, although seven senior well qualified lawyers had applied for the position, and they were all by passed for persons who were less qualified.

He added also the former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson tried to railroad Jamaica's entry and failed to carry out the correct legal procedure to remove the Privy Council as the final Court, which was later struck down by the London-based final court.

The rejection by the electorate in St Vincent and the Grenadines of the November 25 referendum should not be used as a yardstick in the region to measure the thinking of the people whether or not to accept the CCJ as the final Court. I think there were other factors why that referendum failed.

Antigua and Barbuda Attorney General, Justin Simon, made the point that the results of the St Vincent rederendum should not deter other jurisdictions from seeking constitutional changes to accommodate the regional Court.

Belize will soon join the regional court. Jamaica has reconsidered its position and will soon put the mechanism in place to do so and a few OECS states including Grenada, Antigua, and St Lucia are also willing.

Trinidad and Tobago, which spearded the establishment of the Court along with Jamaica, will take some time before it comes on board. The reason being that it must first secure the approval of the Opposition, and Basdeo Panday's UNC is not interested... at least not for now.

Lets hope by the end of next year at least three other jurisdictions will be on board.

December 9, 2009