We are getting there. There is hope that by the end of next year at least three more countries will join the appellate division of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Before the end of this year St. Lucia will go on board because the mechanism is already in place to do so. The United Kingdom Parliament has been requested to remove St. Lucia from the Privy Council and after this is done, the Kenny Anthony administration will take the necessary steps for St Lucia to accept the CCJ as the final court.
St. Lucia will be the fifth Caricom country to do so – it will join Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica.
At long last both the governing party and the opposition movement in Antigua and Barbuda have agreed to have bipartisan consultations on certain areas of Constitutional reform for accession to the CCJ and to this end at the request of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and opposition leader Baldwin Spencer, President of the CCJ Sir Denis Byron and a team from the CCJ journeyed to the twin island state to sensitize the electorate of the operation of the court. This move is to pave the way for a referendum for the electorate to decide whether or not they want to abolish appeals to the Privy Council.
Reports from St. George’s state that Grenada is also contemplating abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. Trinidad and Tobago will hold its general elections on September 7 and the new government will decide shortly after if it will join the appellate division of the CCJ. Former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday was in the forefront for the establishment of the regional court and because of his strong view Port of Spain was identified as the headquarters of the court. The current opposition leader, Keith Rowley is in favour of the CCJ and the incumbent Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar also wants to abolish civil appeals to the Privy Council.
Over in Jamaica the Portia Simpson government is for the court, and there is ongoing debate among opposition members of the JLP whether or not to join. It is hoped that good sense will prevail and the opposition lawmakers will agree since their vote is required for the mandate. I should state that Edward Seaga, former leader of the JLP when he was Prime Minister in 1988 was in the forefront for the regional court.
The electorate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines rejected a referendum more than five years ago but the referendum was loaded with other constitutional changes including removing the Queen as Head of State and it is not certain whether the voters are not in favour of abolishing appeals to the Privy Council. The CCJ has been doing a fantastic job since its inauguration in April 2005, not only in hearing appeals, but also decided numerous cases in its original jurisdiction including the landmark decision in the Shanique Myrie (a Jamaican woman) case who obtained judgment against the Barbados government after she was harassed and denied entry.
The regional Court has been supporting regional jurisdictions through a US$20 million grant from the government of Canada under the JURIST project. JURIST is a five-year programme that seeks to work with each nation to improve court administration, accelerate the resolution of cases and modernize the courts.