The statement made by Barbados Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, who is the Leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) that Barbados will withdraw from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court is very unfortunate. Stuart’s statement to my mind was not well thought out because I do not see that his wishes will materialise because his party must secure a two-thirds majority which might not be possible. In fact Opposition Leader, Mia Mottley has blasted Stuart for his comments. She said the Prime Minister’s statement may have been as a result of a recent ruling by the CCJ regarding the registration of Commonwealth citizens in the voters’ list ahead of the May 24 general election.
Mottley who is a brilliant lawyer and former Attorney General agreed with the CCJ ruling since the applicant in the case has satisfied the necessary legal and regulatory conditions for registration as an elector. However PM Stuart stressed that once the DLP is re-elected to office he was determined to put Barbados on the same level as every other CARICOM country by de-linking from the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction.
Stuart said “I’m not going to have Barbados disrespected by any politicians wearing robes. It is not going to happen. And I spoke about this privately to the present president of the Caribbean Court of Justice. I don’t want to influence any decision. I don’t care what they decide”.
The PM made a very interesting comment when he said Barbados would not be going back to the UK Privy Council. This means that the Barbados Appellate Court will be the final Court. The Guyana Court of Appeal was the final Court for more than 30 years between 1970 when the Republic abolished appeals to the Privy Council and in 2001 when the CCJ was established. Guyana and Barbados were the only two countries who had severed ties with the London-based Privy Council at that time (2001) and several years later Belize joined the Appellate Division of the CCJ and two years ago Dominica followed.
Even if the DLP wins Thursday’s general elections in Barbados and Stuart continues as Prime Minister he will have to get two-thirds of the lawmakers to agree to delink with the CCJ which will be the first step, but there is an elaborate procedure which has to be followed as stated in Article XXXVII of the agreement establishing the CCJ.
Meanwhile, Antigua and Barbuda will hold a referendum before September when the electorate will decide whether or not to cut the apron strings from the London-based Privy Council and join the CCJ.
The regional court will soon have a new president, Vincentian Adrian Saunders who will take over from Sir Denis Byron on July 3,