Caribbean peoples lack confidence in the CCJ
At the Caricom meeting in St. Lucia, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of T&T essentially said it will not be possible for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council (PC) as the final court of appeal at least for this year. The Prime Minister had reversed course last May when she announced that she would introduce legislation replacing the PC with the CCJ as the final court of appeal on criminal matters. Members of Kamla’s party are opposed to replacing the PC with the CCJ. At the Caricom summit, Kamla said heads of governments could not agree to a change in the treaty establishing the CCJ to accommodate T&T’s request. At any rate, other members of Caricom are not enthusiastic about the CCJ. So the matter appears a dead issue. Only Guyana, Belize and Barbados have accepted the jurisdiction of the CCJ and none has done so via a referendum. St Vincent tried to make the CCJ as its final court of appeal through a referendum to replace the constitution and make the country a republic. Voters rejected the proposed change.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson of Jamaica also appears to backing down on the CCJ as she fails to secure support for it. I was recently in Tobago and met some Jamaicans who came for a boat race. In an interview on the CCJ and Privy Council, the visiting Jamaicans told me they prefer the Privy Council (PC). The opposition Jamaican Labour Party has stated it will not support the ruling Peoples National Party, in its announced plan to introduce a bill for a referendum to end the links with the Privy Council, suggesting the PC will remain Jamaica’s final court of appeal. Opinion polls in Jamaica showed Jamaicans prefer to return to colonial rule because they feel their nation, like most former colonies, is worse off today than it was fifty years ago. The polls also show that Jamaicans overwhelmingly prefer the PC over the CCJ.
I was in Antigua three weekends ago and queried people about the issue. Antiguans overwhelmingly reject the CCJ. In Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts, etc, polls show people prefer the PC over the CCJ. Two-thirds of Trinidadians are opposed to the replacement of the PC with the CCJ. Clearly, people lack confidence in the CCJ. The governments of the region have not been able to convince people to buy that product and as Ms Lye (in a recent letter in your paper) suggested, there should be a referendum on it in every territory to guide government’s decision-making.