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.

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