(Trinidad Guardian) Former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) retired chief justice Michael de la Bastide says if Barbados withdraws from the appellate jurisdiction of the court it will “seriously undermine the standing of the court in the eyes of the people of the region.”
He is hoping that the threat to withdraw would not become reality.
Barbados was the first Caribbean country to adopt the CCJ as its final Court of Appeal and that decision has become an issue in the current campaign for the May 28 election in that country.
Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has signalled “once the Democratic Labour Party is returned to office Barbados will be withdrawing from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal.”
Stuart had first raised the issue at the Caricom inter-sessional in March where he said that only four Caricom countries—Barbados, Guyana, Dominica and Belize—had made their CCJ their final court of appeal.
He told a political meeting: “I think the attitude coming from Port-of-Spain leaves much to be desired in terms of how it’s treating Barbados and I am not going to have a situation where other countries in the Caribbean keep a safe, distance from that court while Barbados supports it.”
The Barbadian leader has also expressed unhappiness with the rulings of the court saying they “were not reflecting positively on Barbados.”
Speaking to Guardian Media on Monday, de la Bastide said if Barbados withdraws from the court it will be a “retrograde step,” for that country and one that will “seriously undermine the standing of the court” in the region.
“One hopes it does not come to pass,” de la Bastide said.
Stuart made it clear Barbados will not return to the Privy Council as its final court of appeal, but offered no alternative to the CCJ, prompting de la Bastide to ask “is he going to make the Barbados Court of Appeal the final court?”
He hopes that if Stuart wins the election that the threat would not be carried out.
Just why T&T had failed to join the CCJ has to do with politics and de la Bastide said the politicians will have to say why the court established by Caricom member states in 2001 and inaugurated in 2005 and which is based in Port- of- Spain had not been adopted by T&T as its final appellate court.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi blames the Opposition UNC for this. He said “the matter of full accession to the CCJ is one that lies squarely within the realm of the UNC politics.”
Legislation to make the CCJ the final appellate court requires a special majority—which is three-fifths of the Parliament voting in favour of the change from the Privy Council to the CCJ.
Al-Rawi said, “The ability to take full matters to the CCJ is based upon constitutional majority which the UNC has blatantly said they would never support.”
This, he said, was “borne out by the fact” that they “blatantly refused to do it when they were in government in the period 2010-2015.”
As a result, he said, “there is nothing that the present government can do to compel the move toward the CCJ as the final court of appeal.”
Al-Rawi conceded that “there may be merit in some of what he (Stuart) is saying in so far as it coincides with the current position of T&T.”