May 11, 2008

Privy Council/ CCJ

The Reporter Sunday, 11 May 2008
Harry Lawrence - Publisher

A British court in London ruled this week that it has jurisdiction to decide disputes between the Government of Belize and the Belize Bank Limited. In doing so, the court simply ignored the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Belize.

The British court claimed jurisdiction on the strength of an agreement signed between the Prime Minister of Belize, Mr. Said Musa, and the Belize Bank. The agreement stipulates that any dispute between the government and the Belize Bank would be determined not by a Belize court but by a British court.

This is only one of several bizarre arrangements which Mr. Musa made while he was Prime Minister of Belize. He signed another agreement stipulating that Belize Telecommunications Limited, the monopoly utility company now under Mr. Ashcroft’s control, is to be allowed to make a profit of 15 percent on its operations, and that the Government of Belize would make up the short-fall when profits fell below 15 percent.

He also signed an agreement guaranteeing government secrecy about this and other agreements he had signed.

These secret arrangements have allowed a few favoured companies to exploit consumers in Belize by making immoral profits. They are also being used now to frustrate the legitimate resolve of the new government and limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Any arrangement by any Prime Minister to limit or in any way circumscribe the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in Belize is unconstitutional and ought to be resolutely resisted. The Prime Minister has no authority to do anything which would have this result.

The Prime Minister’s office combines administrative and executive and legislative powers but he had no authority over the judiciary and no powers to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
We believe that the arrangement to keep certain agreements secret and hidden from public view is a corrupt practice which will have the most serious consequences. The practice of guaranteeing certain favoured companies a minimum profit of 15 percent on their operations is also a corrupt practice - exploitative in nature and intrinsically unjust.

This is a case which should quite definitely go before the Caribbean Court of Justice and not the Privy Council because it deals with a conflict between British jurisdiction and the Belize jurisdiction.

Belize should pursue its case vigorously before the Caribbean Court of Justice and not be intimidated by the British court.

May 10, 2008

Race and CCJ

MP pulls up UNC-A over ethnic talk
Ria Taitt Political Editor
T&T Express
Saturday, May 10th 2008
The UNC-A cannot speak about ethnic balance in the panel of judges at the Caribbean Court of Justice, when its own parliamentary bench is hardly reflective of this kind of balance, Information Minister Neil Parsanlal said yesterday.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on the CCJ bill yesterday, Parsanlal stated: "Before I can take out the beam in anybody else's eye, I have to take out the mote in my own. Is the ethnic composition, because that is what they are talking about, is the ethnic composition of that bench reflective of the people of Trinidad and Tobago? I submit it is not," he said.

He said on the PNM side, there were "cocoa payol, some half-Chinese, some Indian, some African and me, the quintessential dougla".

"The PNM is reflective of the face of Trinidad and Tobago," he declared. Parsanlal also criticised the constant references by UNC-A speakers to African dictators.

"When references are made to dictators, it is always about Zimbabwe and Mugabe. All the references speak to people who look a particular way and who live in a particular place. There is absolutely no reference to any other countries where there might be dictators. MP for Mayaro (Winston Gypsy Peters), how is it that no references are made, for instance, to dictators from Pakistan?" Parsanlal waxed poetic as he quoted the "quintessential Caribbean man", Black Stalin. He said if he were an East Indian judge, he would feel insulted if he was appointed to the CCJ just because of his race. That would amount to "tokenism" and "patronage", he said.

On Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj's charge that CCJ judges had no work to do and were sipping coffee and reading papers, Parsanlal said he would not be surprised if citizens mistook that for rumshop talk.

"I want to assure the national community that no alcohol is served in the tea-room." Parsanlal also dismissed allegations that CCJ judges were being favoured, saying that some allowances given to local judges were not given to CCJ judges.


Taking Jamaica's case to COTED
Jamaica Gleaner Editorial
published: Friday May 9, 2008

This weekend, Caricom's Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), the ministerial group that oversees broad economic issues within the 15-member community, holds a regular meeting in Barbados.

However, it is unlikely that this session of COTED will be taken with the routine dispensing of issues. It could be a rather contentious gathering of ministers. And Jamaica will be at the forefront of the arguments, pursuing what it sees as a critical point of national interest: ensuring the security of food supplies.

COTED is an important forum; it is the ministers who sit in this forum who, generally, decide on any varying of Caricom's Common External Tariff (CET), that is, the rate of duty that member states apply to imports from third countries to protect regional production.

Opposition to suspension

At issue is Jamaica's application for the suspension of the 25 per cent CET on the importation of up to 34,000 tonnes of rice so as to cover what Kingston insists is a shortfall in supplies from with the community. Guyana, Caricom's major supplier of rice, opposes the suspension. According to Georgetown, its producers can meet all of Jamaica's demands.

A substantial part of the problem, it appears, is that Jamaica does not like the fact that Guyana will not commit to forward contracts beyond a month, given the global spike in commodity prices, including that for rice. So, to put it bluntly, Jamaica's trade minister, Karl Samuda, feels that with the Guyanese hoping to maximise returns from purchasers who are willing and capable of paying higher prices, Jamaica is being shafted. And rice is a staple in Jamaica, even though we do not - having a long time ago abandoned the effort - grow the stuff.

There are a number of things that must happen in Barbados, not least of which is that Guyana must come clean on the supply issue. Kingston needs to be satisfied that Georgetown is abiding by both the letter and spirit of the rules.

Single economy pretensions

This, after all, is no arbitrary trade arrangement. Caricom is a single market, with pretensions towards a single economy. In that regard, we expect Jamaica, or any other member of the community, to be subject to the same pricing terms in the purchase of rice as any Guyana buyer - except for the cost of shipping. Trying to squeeze higher prices out of Jamaican purchasers, if that is what Guyana is attempting to achieve by insisting only on short-term contracts, will not do. Jamaica has to be assured, in so far as possible, of a certainty of supply.

But by the same token, Kingston has to take on board the fact of the rise in the price of rice on the global market, and to consider this matter of food security in the broader regional context rather than a purely domestic issue. For, as Mr Samuda will be aware, we have in the past undermined domestic agriculture and weakened food security by the full embrace of cheap and subsidised imports. The revival of a Regional Food Plan, which foundered in the 1980s, is important.

But if Jamaica feels that Guyana is playing games and it gets no satisfaction at COTED, it should test Georgetown's behaviour at the Caribbean Court of Justice which, in its original jurisdiction, interprets the Caricom treaty.

May 06, 2008

China Supports CARICOM Integration

Premier Wen: China supports Caribbean integration process

BEIJING, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Premier Wen Jiabao said on Tuesday that China supported the Caribbean integration process.

"China will strengthen dialogue with the Caribbean community based on mutual respect, reciprocity and equality to promote south-south cooperation and achieve common prosperity," said Wen.
He made the remarks during a meeting with David Thompson, prime minister of Barbados, who arrived in Beijing on Monday for a four-day official visit to China.

Wen said China and Barbados had maintained good cooperation in the areas of trade, technology, and personnel training as well as in such international organizations as the United Nations.

"Both China and Barbados are developing nations and enjoy common interests," Wen said. He vowed to expand cooperation with Barbados on trade, tourism, architecture and sustainable development.
Thompson expressed gratitude for China's support to his country's economic and social development.
He said Barbados attached importance to relations with China and would continue adherence to the one-China policy. He also said that Barbados supported the Beijing Olympic Games and China's participation in the Inter-American Development Bank.

May 04, 2008

CCJ Michael De La Bastide defends CCJ

Source: Trinidad Express
Sat, 03 May 2008 9:29 PM PDT
It is not true that the judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice have no work to do and spent their time "drinking coffee and reading papers".

President of the CCJ Michael De La Bastide, in a interview at his Henry Street, Port of Spain, office, said the court has been receiving cases from Guyana and Barbados, which have approved the CCJ in both its original and final jurisdiction.

The interview was done shortly after the debate on the CCJ bill in the House of Representatives.
De La Bastide said 14 appeals were filed in 2007 -12 from Guyana and two from Barbados. He stressed, however, that it was the experience of all newly established courts -regional, international and domestic-that it took time for the volume of cases to build. He said this was the case with Canada, when its Supreme Court was established in 1949 and that the same thing happened in New Zealand and the International Criminal Court.

"I have no doubt that as time goes out, even without the accessation of other states, the workload of the court would increase. And I have in mind, the original jurisdiction," De La Bastide stated.

Businesses were beginning to recognise that they have a possibility of getting redress for breaches of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, he said. And, he contended: "If the feeling is that the Caricom member-states are not getting full value for their money from the court, then the answer is to use it."

De la Bastide said it was unfortunate that the decision on whether to transfer appeals from the Privy Council to the CCJ had become so highly politicised. "Fundamentally it should not be a party/political view," he said.

De La Bastide said he was "flabbergasted" by a idea he heard on television (during the debate on the CCJ bill in the Parliament two weeks ago) of using the CCJ as a second appeal court, allowing for final appeals to the Privy Council.

"Is this going to be an act of kindness to litigants? To interpose yet another stage of appeal en route to the final appeal? Is the CCJ to be put on probation and depending on how accurate it can forecast the way in which each case is decided by the Privy Council ... it would then be trusted to make a final decision? he asked.

Speaking in a Jamaican dialect, he quipped that this was "bias against local in favour of foreign".
The CJ president also dismissed statements made during the same debate that the local Court of Appeal generally got it wrong because the Privy Council overturned over 50 per cent of its decision.

"It is based on an irrebuttable presumption that the Privy Council gets it right every time. Despite the great respect I have for their Lordships, that is a presumption that is totally irrational," said De La Bastide, who is himself a member of the Privy Council.

"Apart from the possibility that there may be more than one 'right solution' to a legal question, what may establish one's preference for one (solution), rather than the other, is the extent to which it would favour or be favoured by local conditions," he said.

He noted that some of the Privy Councillors had a knowledge of the handicap they operated under when determining cases for a society with which they were entirely unfamiliar.

De La Bastide, who has been a defender of judicial independence throughout his career, stressed that he remained unrepentant in this regard and pointed to the measures taken to protect judicial independence in the establishment of the CCJ.

He complimented Caricom states and the Heads of Government on the quality of the arrangements made to protect the court from political and other extraneous influence and noted that many judges of regional and international courts were "envious" of these arrangements.

"No member of the Regional Judicial Legal Service Commission owes his seat to any politician or to political connections. The president is appointed by the majority of Heads (of Government). But their choice is restricted by someone recommended by the RJLSC," he stated.

Similarly, he noted, judges can only be removed after an enquiry by a independent tribunal.

Suggesting that the CCJ judgments were of a high quality, De La Bastide said that the West Indian Law Report published by Butterworth in England, which has tended to report only Privy Council judgments, had been reporting many of the judgments of the CCJ. In Volume 69 of last year, five judgments of the CCJ have been selected for reporting, he said.

De La Bastide also said it would be nothing short of a "regional tragedy" were the CCJ not permitted to achieve its full potential.

He stressed that this potential involved the Court fulfilling its "two-fold function of supporting regional integration and of administering justice effectively and appropriately to the peoples of Caricom.

"If the opportunity which the establishment of this court has now created is thrown away, then I fear it may be a long, long time, if ever, it comes again," he said.