October 28, 2008

Suriname - Guyana Dispute

This latest Suriname-Guyana row
Published on: 10/28/08.
Source: Nation News - Barbados

ONCE AGAIN, a dispute has arisen between Guyana and Suriname, two neighbouring states of the Caribbean Community, over alleged violation of territorial space; and once again CARICOM is faced with the challenge of helping resolve the row, consistent with the spirit and letter of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

In June 2000, when a Suriname gunboat forcibly evicted a Canadian oil company, CGX Energy, from carrying out off-shore drilling operations in the Corentyne River, on the basis of licence issued by the Guyana Government, CARICOM had warned against the implications of such an unprecedented action by a member state.

Its offer to play a mediating role was rebuffed by Suriname and, eventually, Guyana felt compelled to seek a more far-reaching and definitive resolution to a recurring problem over territorial rights. It opted to go the route of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The initiative resulted in an historical ruling through arbitration last year that predominantly favoured Guyana' case, in delimitation of maritime boundaries.

Then came the recent surprising development to once more disturb Guyana-Suriname relations. This time it had to with the seizure on October 13 by Surinamese military personnel of a Guyanese cargo ship transporting sugar, for allegedly steering into what Suriname claims to be its portion of the Corentyne River. Guyana has rejected this claim as being legally baseless, contending that the vessel was in "international water" along a route often traversed.

The captain of the cargo vessel, Arnold Garraway has been reported in the region's media as saying that for three years now he has been travelling along the same route in the Corentyne River.

Regrettably, as tension rises over this latest incident to aggravate relations between two CARICOM states that share much in common, there is yet to be a meeting at the level of heads of government to produce a satisfactory explanation of what really went wrong when the cargo ship Lady Chandra was seized.

Not only are both Guyana and Suriname members also of the Association of Caribbean States and the 12-nation Union of South American Nations, they are signatory partners to the Revised CARIOM Treaty which has numerous provisions for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Ultimately, if they so choose, a dispute between member states could be referred for a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which has original jurisdiction on dispute settlement. First, there must be an official notification by the relevant parties of the dispute to be resolved.

It is to be hoped, therefore, that fresh efforts will speedily be made by the governments in Paramaribo and Georgetown to settle the dispute at hand, knowing that they could also access the dispute settlement mechanisms afforded by the CARICOM Treaty.

October 27, 2008

Commonwealth Lawyers Association Conference

Former AG at Commonwealth Lawyers Association Conference
Source: Democrat - St Kitts & Nevis
Published: October 27, 2008

Mr. S.W. Tapley Seaton, C.V.O., Q.C., former Attorney General of St. Kitts and Nevis, Senior Partner in the Law Firm of SEATON & FOREMAN and current President of the OECS Bar Association flew the flag for St. Kitts and Nevis at the recently-concluded 25th Anniversary Conference of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association held in Montego Bay, Jamaica 16-19 October.

The theme of the Conference was “Justice at Home and Abroad”, with the triple thrusts of:
1. Universality of Human Rights.
2. Globalization and Legal Practice.
3. Public and Corporate Good Governance.
The gathering was truly transnational and saw representation and active involvement by participants from the Caribbean region, Zimbabwe, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Fiji and others. Lawyers were urged to pay keen attention to their responsibility to uphold the Rule of Law in their respective countries and there was opportunity to hear about and examine the challenges to the rule of law that face us throughout the Commonwealth including, among other topics, Electoral Law and the preservation of Democracy and the seeming threats we should look for even in economically prosperous countries. There was the opportunity to hear first hand from lawyers in the front line who are dealing with these challenges to the rule of law on a daily basis.

The significance of the Conference was underscored by the attendance of such eminent persons as the Hon. Bruce Golding, M.P., Prime Minister of Jamaica, who gave the Opening Address and declared the Conference Open; Senator, The Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, Q.C., Attorney General of Jamaica; President, Caribbean Court of Justice, Right Honourable Justice de la Bastide; Chief Justice of Jamaica, Mrs. Justice Zalia McCalla.

Mr. Seaton chaired the Closing Ceremony of the Conference, which heard the Hon. David Thompson, Prime Minister of Barbados deliver a rousing Closing Address. The P.M. emphasized the challenges to the legal profession in a shrinking world and urged lawyers to ‘get with it’ and make a decision as to whether they would be swift gazelles escaping the rampaging lions of globalization or whether they would be the lions gobbling up those reactionary gazelles who are unable to keep up with the changing times. The P.M.’s message to the legal profession was, whatever your choice, gazelle or lion, get up and “run” if you want to stay alive in the current climate.

Delegates at the Conference and their guests received the full measure of the warmth, hospitality and cultural excellence of the Jamaican people, while pursuing a business agenda of interesting topics and outstanding speakers.

October 21, 2008

Joining the CCJ - Action more than words needed

Joining CCJ – action more than words
Published on: 10/21/08.
Source ; The nation Newspaper - Barbados

DOMINICA'S Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is showing a new interest in his government's accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate institution.

It may have been the forum he was addressing in Roseau that inspired such a new expression of interest in the CCJ. The occasion was the 14th special meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Question is: What precisely is preventing the Dominica prime minister from taking steps to give substance to his "commitment to sign on to the CCJ", as indicated at that October 11 meeting of CARICOM's Legal Affairs Committee?

This question could also be asked of at least three other governments of the same sub-region of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to which Dominica belongs – St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis and St Lucia.

For, unlike Jamaica, for instance, none of this quartet of Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is bound by prior commitment to conduct a national referendum on whether to abolish the Privy Council in London and access the CCJ as their final court of appeal.

The question remains: Why the occasional public expression of interest by some of our OECS heads in replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ, without any known practical initiatives on their part to advance this claimed commitment?

Prime ministers Skerrit, Ralph Gonsalves (St Vincent and the Grenadines), Denzil Douglas (St Kitts-Nevis) and Stephenson King (St Lucia) would be aware that they have the option of pursuing a two-track approach: Either seek the required parliamentary majority, or go the referendum route in the quest to have the CCJ, not only as a court for original jurisdiction in resolving disputes arising from interpretation of the Revised CARICOM Treaty, but also as their final appellate institution.

Once they take the issue to parliament, their parliamentary opponents will certainly be challenged to declare where they also really stand on the CCJ – currently the court of last resort for, regrettably, only Barbados and Guyana.

Now that these four and eight other CARICOM states have signed the text of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), it may be a good time to recall a very relevant observation that was made by the immediate past head of the European delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Amos Tincani, in welcoming the inauguration of the CCJ back in April 2005:

"I firmly believe," he said, "that the CCJ is an indispensable element in the process of Caribbean integration . . . I say that with the hindsight of a similar experience of regional integration in Europe where the European Court of Justice has been instrumental in ensuring that the various treaties and related legislation (regulations and directives) are respected and implemented throughout the European Union . . . ."

All CARICOM states that are yet to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ should give serious consideration to this striking observation by the EU's envoy.

October 16, 2008

Legal Affairs Committee Meets

Legal Affairs Committee meeting wraps up
Source: Dominica News Online
Date: October 16, 2008
Attorneys General and Ministers for Legal Affairs, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice and other legal officials from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) gathered in Dominica recently for the First Meeting of Senior Officials of the Legal Affairs Committee (SOLAC), Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC) and the Fourteenth Special Meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee (LAC).
In an address at the opening ceremony at the Fort Young Hotel in Roseau, Dominica’s Attorney General, Hon. Francine Baron-Royer explained the mandate of the Legal Affairs Committee.
The Legal Affairs Committee was established by Article 18 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. It is made up of the Ministers responsible for Legal Affairs or Attorneys General of member states or both.
Hon. Baron-Royer stated that CARICOM is made up of many bodies and organs and the Legal Affairs Committee is tasked with the responsibility of advising them on treaty matters and other legal issues, most notably the harmonisation of laws of within CARICOM countries.
She also highlighted the role of Senior Officials of the Legal Affairs Committee (SOLAC), a body comprising at least two Attorneys General and senior officials of the Legal Affairs Committee.
It is the responsibility of SOLAC to review matters for consideration by the Legal Affairs Committee, who will then advise CARICOM Heads of Government accordingly. SOLAC met for two days prior to the Meeting of the LAC.
Matters discussed by the Legal Affairs Committee during their meeting included:
Stocktaking on where CARICOM countries are with respect to the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of Appeal ( Presently the CCJ is the final court of Appeal only for Barbados and Guyana)
Discussion on the security of tenure of members of the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission. This body is charged with the responsibility of the appointment of judges to the Court
•Examination of the status of instruments of the Community which in some cases have not been signed or have not been ratified by member states
•Discussion on a proposal from the Legal Services Office of the General Council to offer assistance to member states in relation to their individual law revision requirements
•Discussion on assistance from CARICOM to assist member states in conducting periodic reviews of their statute books in order to keep their laws up to date, in recognition of the fact that this is a costly exercise and most member states do not have the capacity to conduct law revision in a comprehensive fashion.

October 14, 2008

Caribbean Court of Justice Conference Series

The public is being invited to take part in the CCJ Conference Series entiled
"The CCJ, The CSME & The Private Sector"
To be held at
OCTOBER 21-22, 2008
Click on the link below for additional information