Just before the name of the new President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is to be announced one of the Caribbean leaders has lashed out at most regional heads for their failure to abolish appeals to the Privy Council and accept the CCJ as the final court.
Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart last week told his colleagues at a Caricom Inter-sessional meeting in Haiti that their failure to make the CCJ the final court is a disgrace since they severed links by gaining political independence decades ago, but still allowed the Privy Council to be the final court. So far only four countries: Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica, have severed ties with the London based court.
It is expected that very soon the name of the next President of the CCJ will be announced. The outgoing President, Kittian Sir Denis Byron is to demit office on July 3 next. Sir Denis who completed seven years as Head of the regional court has done a fantastic job during his tenure. He was the second President replacing Michael de La Bastide of Trinidad and Tobago
Credit should be given to him for the Judicial Reform Programme in the Eastern Caribbean. He played an important role to the establishment of the Civil Procedure Rules 2000 for the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC). He also introduced court reporting in the ECSC more than 12 years ago as well as case management. Although only four countries have accepted the CCJ as the final court in the appellate division, the CCJ is available to all member countries of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to interpret the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The court made a landmark ruling when it ordered substantial damages against the Barbados government for denying entry to a Jamaican national, Shanique Myrie. It also dealt with a case involving gay rights in which Maurice Tomlinson challenged the governments of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago. The CCJ ruled that homosexual Caricom nationals have a right of freedom of movement on the same terms as any other Caricom national.
Antigua and Barbuda is considering abolishing appeals to the Privy Council and accepting the CCJ as the final court, and both the government and opposition decided to have a referendum so the electorate could make the decision. This seems to be on hold, however, because the Prime Minister has announced a snap election slated for March 21.
Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, which were in the forefront of lobbying for the regional court more than two decades ago now have second thoughts, flipflopping as administrations have changed. St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada failed in their bid to join the Appellate Division of the CCJ because their electorates rejected referenda which would have allowed the two countries to do so.
Legal practitioners and politicians in the region are anxious to know who will be appointed by the Heads of Government in the region to replace Sir Denis. I predict that Vincentian Adrian Saunders who has been a judge of the CCJ from its inception in 2005 will be chosen, since he has done a commendable job since assuming office. He was involved in training programmes and worked along with Sir Denis in implementing the CPR rules. Before sitting as a CCJ judge, Saunders acted as Chief Justice for the Eastern Caribbean Court. He is 64 years of age and is known for his scholarship, excellent public relations and respect for the rule of law.
Several important cases will soon come up for hearing before the court including a third term for former Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo, and other important political decisions from the Guyana Court of Appeal, as well as a few from the Belize and Barbados Appellate Courts.