The call by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer for a joint referendum of the OECS states to seek the green light from electorates to join the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has raised eyebrows.
One wonders why so late in the game Mr Spencer is advocating such a move. The question being asked is, whether the Prime Minister, who is now the Chairman of the OECS states grandstanding to try to portray himself as a regional thinker because a general election in his country will be held within days on Thursday, June 12? It is observed that he has made absolutely no attempt at a national level to persuade the local population of the merits of the CCJ.
His close friend and prime ministerial colleague, Ralph Gonsalves, tried to persuade Vincentians to join the court. He campaigned vigorously but failed to win his referendum to do so.
I think a call at this late stage is meaningless, since only his country and Grenada require a referendum. In fact Dominica has gone ahead and already obtained permission from the British government to sever ties with the Privy Council, and St Lucia and St Kitts/Nevis are also moving in that direction. Moreover, Spencer is one of the critics of the ruling of the CCJ in the Monique Myrie case – the young Jamaican woman who was awarded damages after she was harassed at the Grantley Adams airport in Barbados.
Meanwhile the President of the CCJ, Sir Denis Byron, has announced that he wants someone
of Indian origin to be one of the judges of the regional court. He made a call at a ceremony
to mark Indian Arrival Day in the twin island republic that qualified Indo-Caribbeans should apply for a judicial post in the CCJ. There is now a vacancy since the lone female judge of the court, Guyanese Desiree Bernard, went into retirement three months ago.
So far only three countries – Guyana, Barbados and Belize – have severed ties with the London-based Privy Council and accepted the CCJ as the final court in its appellate jurisdiction. However all Caricom states have access to the court in its original jurisdiction to interpret the terms and conditions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas as well as other treaties.