Rowley backs PM: No need for CCJ referendum

(Trinidad Express) Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday the Opposition supports Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in her position that there was no need for a referendum on pulling away from the Privy Council and moving to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final court of appeal.

Rowley said the Opposition will lend its full support to the legislation to effect this move, if the Government can prove that breaking away for criminal matters and not civil matters was workable.

The Prime Minister and Rowley met yesterday before the Parliament sitting to discuss Government’s decision.

Last Sunday, Congress of the People (COP) political leader Prakash Ramadhar called for the matter of the CCJ to be put to a referendum.

The Prime Minister immediately responded on the same day by issuing a release which stated it was never a formal stated policy or an agreed policy that a referendum take place on this initiative.

At yesterday’s meeting, Rowley said three positions were discussed.

“There is a PNM position which is go the whole way, there’s a UNC position which is to go half way and there’s a COP position which is to hold a referendum,” he said.

“I think the Government and the Opposition is in one about not requiring a referendum. We don’t need a referendum on going half way or going whole way in so far as we have already established the court. We can’t have the referendum now, the court exists so the question of a referendum on a CCJ or not, to me is disingenuous, because we have already created it, we put a couple hundred million dollars into a trust fund that is operating now, there’s a court in session,” said Rowley.

Rowley said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan presented his advice on the move and the Opposition presented theirs.

“One of the points that we raised was that in the event that the Government takes its advice from its experts and want to go the way it is going there may be legal impediments, the Government doesn’t think so,” said Rowley.

He said legal challenges could arise as there may be need for the co-operation of Caricom neighbours who are all part of the CCJ agreement.

“The Government has agreed to look at that to see whether that in fact is an impediment and they have agreed to share with us as the discussions continue with Caricom neighbours what their views are on the matter,” said Rowley.

Told that the Attorney General had indicated the Opposition has offered its support, Rowley said the Opposition speaks for itself on this matter.

He said discussions will continue. “We exchanged our advice and the Government agreed that they will do certain things and they will share with us information as they go along.”

Rowley added: “We are prepared to go in that direction, we have said it is unworkable, it is for the Government to show us that it is workable.”

The Opposition, said Rowley, is not out to score political points on this issue and is willing to lend full support once the Government convinces them that their approach was workable.


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