January 30, 2008

Possible Case for the CCJ

Flour issue needs settled thoughts
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Source: Antigua Sun

Trade disputes are a real and expected eventuality of most regions in the world, especially where economies thrive.

We say this against the background of the obvious disagreements within the sub-region over the steep spike in flour as imposed by the Eastern Caribbean Group of Companies (ECGC), putting a heavy strain on those companies in Antigua and Barbuda that depend on the product and an even greater strain on consumers.

The product and its derivatives do indeed fall in the category of a staple here in Antigua and Barbuda as there is a heavy dependence by consumers. Nonetheless, the entire dispute may have gone the way of unfortunate, especially the turn it has taken as reported by Trade Co-ordinator Dr. Clarence Henry in the front page of the Antigua Sun of yesterday’s issue.

Now, as Dr. Henry has explained, options are being sought since the country is no longer prepared to accept the increase in cost that the ECGC is seeking to exact from the purchasers of the product throughout the region. The matter, Dr. Henry noted, could be taken as far as the Caribbean Court of Justice for settlement under its trade dispute jurisdiction or even the recently established Caribbean Community Competition Commission.

These institutions qualify as a sort of last resort entities when round the table negotiations prove futile. Now, Antigua and Barbuda is mulling the option of seeking settlement through a Caricom mediator because of the obvious void within the organisation of the OECS to deal with these realities of today. Issue can easily be made of the possibility that this is one of the areas where our leaders and the region have fallen out of step with the times. When Antigua and Barbuda presented its proposal, Dr. Henry noted, to be allowed to import 50 per cent of the 100-pound sacks of flour from medium developed countries in the region and sources outside the Caribbean, several of the OECS territories flatly rejected this idea.

The proposal from one territory was for the government to undertake the importation of the commodity. This of course would place an additional burden on the government’s already strained coffers and of course rob private sector interests of needed business.

Article 164 of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which governs Caricom, was another issue that was cited by at least one other territory. That country’s prime minister felt that the proposals by Antigua and Barbuda would serve to undermine the protection mechanism within the treaty for fledgling businesses in the region.

To his credit, Dr. Henry hit the proverbial nail on the head.

“These mills are being shielded by their governments and are attempting to hide under the cover of this OECS family,” Dr. Henry stated.

The question, is at what cost and for how long, does the region intend to stand behind these protective trade regimes in a market that is supposed to be growing and dynamic? Not saying that we ignore the treaties, laws and regulations that maintain balance and order, but at the same time consideration must be given to how policies affect the thousands of consumers whose spending allows big businesses like the ECGC to thrive.

A balance must be able to be struck and compromise must be embraced around the negotiation table. We would not want to see an important business go under, but at the same time, that same entity is in a much better position to withstand the shock of the changes on the world market than the ordinary man. We are pretty sure of this.

January 28, 2008

St. Lucia Embraces the CCJ Appellate Jurisdiction

St Lucia to join CCJ
Source: Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation
Friday, 25 January 2008
Prime Minister Stephenson King Thursday said his government is anxious to have the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) established as St Lucia’s final court as he attempted to clear the air on a previous statement made about the regional court.
In a press statement King explained that a recent comment made to the media in Dominica that the Privy Council had served St. Lucia well, has been interpreted by some to mean that St. Lucia is in no hurry to join the CCJ.
Speaking to reporters during an Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) summit last week, King said: "My government has always had the view, even when we were in opposition, that we should proceed cautiously with sub scri ption and participation in the CCJ ... It simply means that as a new government there is need for cautious acceptance of the intention of the CCJ".
However, in his statement released Thursday, King said St Lucia is anxious to have the CCJ constituted as the country’s final Court of Appeal but the constitution of St. Lucia provides for certain procedures to be followed, including parliamentary approval before this can be done.
"I wish to inform the public both here and abroad that my government has already commenced discussion on possible ways in which those constitutional requirements can be addressed so that the CCJ can become St. Lucia’s final Court of Appeal in civil and criminal matters in due course," he noted.
King said that St. Lucia is already part of the CCJ and his government has taken no decision to the contrary. "The fact is that St. Lucia has already signed on to the agreement establishing the CCJ which is based in Trinidad and Tobago.
"The CCJ functions as an international court with jurisdiction in relation to the interpretation of the treaty establishing the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and to decide on disputes that may arise between member states of CARICOM.
"This is the original jurisdiction of the CCJ, however, the institution does not yet have the second jurisdiction that is to serve as a final Court of Appeal in respect of civil and criminal matters. This implies that criminal appeals must still be referred to the Privy Council," he noted.
King’s position, as outlined last week, had drawn condemnation from Opposition Leader Dr Kenny Anthony, whose administration was in office when the CCJ was established.

Whither the Caribbean Court of Justice?

Whither the Caribbean Court?
Published on: 1/27/08.
Source: Barbados Nation

THE CARIBBEAN COURT OF JUSTICE (CCJ) was conceived as the final appellate court for civil and criminal matters from English-speaking members of the CARICOM Community (CARICOM). In its original jurisdiction, it would be the tribunal for resolving disputes that arise from the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), as well as adjudicate in matters referred to it by national courts of the participating countries.

To date, only Guyana and Barbados have signed up on the CCJ as their final court in all matters, although leaders of almost the entire CARICOM membership gave verbal assurances of their commitment to the principle and signed on for a US$100 million trust fund, to be managed by the Caribbean Development Bank.

The signatory countries include Dominica, Antigua/Barbuda, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts-Nevis, Jamaica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent, and Belize.

Since the establishment of the CCJ a few influential Caribbean people in Jamaica and elsewhere have taken the position that there is nothing wrong with the system of referring cases to the Judicial Committee of the London-based British Privy Council instead of switching to the CCJ. In the context of contemporary Caribbean affairs, this is a most appalling attitude to adopt.

We exist in an increasingly globalised world and it is perceived, even by politicians, that there is need to establish a stronger Caribbean identity. Political leaders, as much as anyone else, should be conscious of the question of sovereignty, precious as this is within the context of the CCJ and the regional integration movement.

At nearly every regional conference leaders ignite a flicker of hope that pan-Caribbean unity is high among their priorities.

Unlike some of the smaller states which now give every impression of making a disgraceful about-face, Jamaica, a notable standout from the now defunct Federation, might now be tending towards closer cooperation by raising the likelihood of a referendum to determine whether it would join the CCJ.

A few days ago, St Lucia's newly appointed Prime Minister Stephenson King is reported as having suggested that he sees nothing wrong with the Privy Council. His predecessor, the late Sir John Compton, a committed regionalist, would be devastated were he still alive.

What does such an utterance do for this region? We can understand the need for amendments to some countries' constitutions to facilitate a switch from the Privy Council to the CCJ, but what we are hearing is a savage blow to those who cherish the dream of a thoroughly united Caribbean to see that others in high office are setting their faces strongly against the regional court.

A few might be happy to become pawns of bigger states. But have they no sense of shame that what they are doing is a reflection on the image of their countries? Do they have no sense of dignity?

What will be the real future of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy which the CCJ was established to serve? Are we in danger of becoming mendicant satellites of some Eastern or Western country?

At the very start of 2008, King's declaration is a crushing blow to the regional integration movement. These islands must demonstrate that they truly stand for something to which they now appear to have been giving only convenient lip service. It really is quite appalling that these statements should be made at this time.

Trinidad and Tobago had its own aberrant behaviour with Basdeo Panday supporting the court when he was Prime Minister but then strenuously opposing it when his party lost the government.

The whole scenario now presenting itself is terrible for these islands if this is the kind of stand the leaders of these less developed CARICOM countries want to take, going in a direction that makes no sense when viewed against the background of a professed commitment to regional cooperation and development.

Where are we going as a predominantly West Indian people? British citizens have recourse to the European Court of Justice even though the House of Lords is located in London? Do we realise that the Privy Council is on record as urging countries such as those in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, to seek remedies in their own domestic or regional jurisdictions?

There should be a groundswell of the strongest censure by Caribbean people for paper leaders that strut and posture at every opportunity to massage their egos within the region and elsewhere.

January 21, 2008

CCJ Teleconference Sitting

CCJ in historic teleconference sitting
Monday, January 21st 2008
Source: Stabroek News

In a historic sitting last week the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) held a hearing by way of teleconferencing involving Guyanese attorneys in Guyana while the Court was convened in Trinidad.

The full panel of the Caribbean Court of Justice headed by President Michael De la Bastide and including Justices Rolston Nelson, Desiree Bernard, Adrian Saunders and Jacob Wit heard arguments from Guyanese attorneys in Guyana on an application for leave to appeal as a poor person.

The case of Eileen Ross V Coreen Nelson involves a dispute over ownership of an apartment in Laing Avenue, Georgetown. Both parties were financially challenged and could not afford either travel to the Court in Trinidad or the cost of legal representation at the Court in Trinidad. The applicant Eileen Ross was represented by the firm of Fraser & Housty whose team of attorneys included Stephen Fraser, Nigel Hughes, Teni Housty and Roger Yearwood while Coreen Saunders was represented by Timothy Jonas of De Caires and Fitzpatrick.

The hearing lasted in excess of three hours. After hearing extensive and involved arguments the CCJ granted leave to appeal as a poor person to Eileen Ross. Some of the attorneys interviewed thought it was a significant development in the challenge of bringing the CCJ closer to the average litigant and a positive step in affording the financially challenged greater access to justice.

The CCJ was inaugurated on April 16, 2005.

January 20, 2008

Owen Arthur's Legacy

A sea change in the Caribbean - Arthur goes
By Christopher Ram
Sunday, January 20th 2008
Source : Stabroek News

In a dramatic message, one of Barbados' most successful prime ministers and perhaps a driving force behind the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), was told unequivocally by voters this week - time for a change. Despite an enviable record of achievement over the last thirteen years, Prime Minister Owen Arthur's Barbados Labour Party lost overwhelmingly to the Democratic Labour Party in what Guyanese journalist Dr Rickey Singh referred to as the mother of all elections. .....

Perhaps the most important regional achievement of Mr Arthur, however, was to persuade his country and its legal profession to join the Caribbean Court of Justice, making it only the second country along with Guyana to make the regional court its highest court. The significance of that situation is underlined given that Barbados is perhaps the most pro-British member of Caricom and not many would have bet against cutting the ties with the Privy Council. Jamaica whose own Gleaner in 1901 (yes, 1901) had called for a regional court to replace the Privy Council, St Lucia under Dr Kenny Anthony and St Vincent under Dr Ralph Gonsalves are all yet to make that crucial commitment to the Caribbean and its jurisprudence.

January 18, 2008

CCJ President Appeals for Work!

President of Caribbean court repeats call for more countries to accept its appellate jurisdiction
Source: Stabroek - Georgetown Guyana
By Oscar Ramjeet
Friday, January 18th 2008

The President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Michael de la Bastide, has expressed the hope that more countries will accept the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ as the final court.

De la Bastide told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) last week that he would like at least one or two other member states who signed the agreement establishing the regional court to do so, so that the Court can get more work.

However it seems as if he will have to wait for quite some time before this materialises since the Bruce Golding government in Jamaica has not listed the CCJ as one of its priorities for the New Year, and Belize which will hold its general elections on February 7 has not included the CCJ and the abolition of the Privy Council as the final court as one of the issues for the electorate, but the Belizeans will vote on whether or not there should be an elected senate .

Golding announced 4 priorities for 2008: (1) more authority to the parliamentary opposition, (2) greater freedom to the press, (3) strengthening and protecting the rights of ordinary citizens and (4) stamping out corruption. No reference was made to the CCJ and the Privy Council.

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government in 1988 under the leadership of Edward Seaga as well as the government of Trinidad and Tobago were in the forefront of the establishment of the regional court, but there has been a change of heart by the JLP after it lost the government. However there is an indication that the new Prime Minister Mr. Golding who took office last September will take steps to remove the Privy Council as the final court but it is not known when this will be done.

It is understood that Jamaicans are concerned about the costs of the court, the retention of the death penalty and the fact that although Jamaica has the largest population, no Jamaican is included in the panel of judges of the regional court.

The Trinidad and Tobago government and the opposition are at loggerheads and it is not likely that early steps will be taken for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Privy Council as the final court.

Since the court was inaugurated on April 16, 2005, general elections were held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago and the electorates were not asked to vote on whether or not the Privy Council should be removed as the final court.

So far only Guyana and Barbados, two of the 12 countries which signed the agreement establishing the regional Court have accepted the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The OECS countries, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts /Nevis, St. Lucia, and St, Vincent and the Grenadines, will have to amend their constitutions to remove the Privy Council as the final court, and it seems as if these governments are not in a hurry to ask the electorate to do so.

The Dutch speaking country of Suriname is still to join.

Last week's call by the CCJ Head for the Caricom governments to make use of the court was not the first time that Mr de la Bastide has urged the respective governments to join the regional court. He did so at a presentation in Jamaica, and in the first publication of the annual report of the CCJ he wrote "I do not hide my disappointment and that of my colleagues that to date only Barbados and Guyana have accepted the Court as the final Court of Appeal in substitution for the Privy Council."

In its 32 months of existence, eight substantive appeals and several applications for leave to appeal were dealt with, and Mr. de la Bastide in his interview with CMC said that the court received nine appeals from Guyana in 2007 which will have to go to management process before being heard.

January 06, 2008

More Work Needed For Regional Court

CCJ head wants more use to be made of regional court
Friday January 04 2008
The head of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is hoping for more work for the regional court this year.

Barbados and Guyana are the only Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries that have signed on to the CCJ which has been in operation since 2005, but President Michael de la Bastide said one of his wishes for 2008 is for more use to be made of the court.

“The hope is that at least one or two of the other members states who signed the agreement establishing the court will accept the appellate jurisdiction of the court,” he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“Also that use will be made of the original jurisdiction of the court for the purpose of enforcing the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” he added.

De la Bastide told CMC that the Trinidad-based court has made improvements over the last year.

“We’ve had to revise some of the rules of the court in light of the experience we’ve had in the last two years, particularly with regards to the applications for leave to appeal in the respective courts of appeal,” he said.

“There were some gaps which needed to be filled in order to make sure that everything proceeded properly and smoothly.”

The CCJ president also reported that the court received nine appeals from Guyana in 2007 which will have to go through the case management process before being heard.
He said those matters will be heard shortly.

The CCJ, which was established in February 2001, was inaugurated on 16 April, 2005.

Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago were the states which originally signed on to the agreement, followed by Dominica and St. Vincent & the Grenadines two years later.