The Commonwealth of Dominica will today be formally admitted as a member of the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice. An impressive accession ceremony is scheduled at the State House Conference Centre in the country’s capital Roseau.
President of the CCJ, Sir Denys Byron, and the other six judges of the court have journeyed from Port of Spain for the function. Dominica is the fourth Caribbean country to abolish appeals from the London based Privy Council. The others are Guyana, Barbados and Belize. After nearly two decades of discussions by Caribbean leaders, the CCJ was inaugurated in April 2005 with only two countries, Guyana and Barbados, as members. Belize joined less than four years ago.
It is very unfortunate that Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago which were in the forefront of the formation of the regional court have not yet joined, and it is not certain if and when they will do so. The Portia Simpson PNP administration is in favour of the CCJ, but now the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is opposed to the regional court, but when it was in government under Edward Seaga, it was vigorously supporting the court. Likewise in Trinidad and Tobago Basdeo Panday when he was Prime Minister was a strong advocate for the court, but it seems as if there is a change of heart by the UNC administration. In fact the court was located in Port of Spain because of Panday’s major role.
The governments of Antigua and Barbuda, St Lucia, and Grenada have expressed their willingness to join the court. Former St Kitts/Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, never pushed for the court while in office for 20 years, but recently criticized the Privy Council for its ruling in not allowing the election process to be conducted under the new boundaries which Douglas had advocated.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, wants his country to join the Appellate Division of the court, but his referendum failed in November 2009. I am of the view the referendum was not successful because it was cramped with other controversial issues including removing the Queen as head of state.
March 6 is a significant date. It was on March 6, 1957 that Ghana, gained independence from Britain, the first African state to do so. It was on this date in 1997 that Guyana’s President, Cheddi Jagan died. He was 79.