November 29, 2008

OECS biggest threat to CSME

OECS 'biggest threat' to CSME
Source: Nation Newspaper
Published on: 11/29/08.
by Anmarie Bailey-Blake

FORMER PRIME MINISTER of St Lucia and current opposition leader there, Kenny Anthony, has pointed to five reasons for the stalling of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Delivering the third Patrick A.M. Emmanuel Memorial Lecture at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies on Thursday night, he cited recent changes in governments; the lack of progress of the Caribbean Court of Justice; the ambivalence of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); Jamaica's lack of commitment and cynicism over the prospect of a political union between the OECS and Trinidad and Tobago as reasons for the lull.

As he called for action from all governments to get CSME going, Anthony referred to remarks from St Vincent's Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves who said: "The apparent lack of interest by Jamaica is forestalling the creation of the CSME."

The opposition leader added that current Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding also stated that his administration "was not ready to embrace a single economy at this time".

Anthony asserted, "[The] return of the Jamaican Labour Party to office has resurrected fears, doubts ad anxieties about Jamaica's commitment to the CSME. The situation has not been helped."

Describing the attitude towards CSME as apathetic, he referred to an article written by Tony Best, where former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson said, ". . . I am not sure that the movers and shakers quite realise what are the possibilities which arise from the creation of the single market . . ."

Calling for immediate action on CSME, Anthony said the time was crucial as this crisis had been described by some as the scariest since the 1930s.

"The fractures which now appear in CARICOM could not have occurred at a worse possible time. The region now has to grapple with a global financial crisis."

He also suggested that the OECS shared the blame. "Perhaps the greatest threat to the future of the viability of the CSME, is the ambivalence of the OECS towards CARICOM and the CSME. OECS states continue to be unwilling suitors to the marriage . . . . Across the OECS, it is not uncommon to hear the view that there is nothing to be gained from the CSME."

Acknowledging that the current economic crisis also played a role, he said that rather than stalling the CSME, the crisis should spur the union into action.

November 28, 2008

Commentary: Is there a future for the Caribbean Court of Justice?

Commentary: Is there a future for the Caribbean Court of Justice?
Published on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Source: Caribbean Net News

By Oscar Ramjeet It is more than three and a half years since the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was inaugurated with two countries, Guyana and Barbados accepting the CCJ as the final court of appeal and although seven governments have changed in the region within this period, the number still stands at two, with no other country joining.
We see a change of government in St Lucia, Jamaica, Bahamas, Grenada, Belize, British Virgin Islands and Barbados since the establishment of the regional Court on April 16, 2005, but the new governments have not initiated steps to join the Court. The BVI is a dependent country and is not a signatory to the agreement setting up the CCJ, and Barbados is already a member.

This is very disturbing and what is more troubling is that there is no indication that any other country has expressed its willingness to rid the Privy Council as the final Court and accept the CCJ as the final Court.
I have written several articles asking about the future of the Court. I even suggested that the authorities, maybe CARICOM, seek the assistance of a lobbyist, someone of the statute of Sir Shridath Ramphal, former Commonwealth Secretary General and who served as CARICOM advisor, to woo governments as well as the opposition to join the court, but this has not materialized.
But, instead, steps have been taken by the CCJ to launch a series of public education initiatives to enhance the knowledge of the Bar and Bench in the region and to invite business, labour and members of the public to be part of the exercise.
CCJ judges went to Jamaica and Antigua last month in their education drive to dispel some of the misconceptions of the court's operations. The CCJ was established by CARICOM member states not only as the final Court of Appeal replacing the Privy Council, but to resolve disputes between Caribbean countries that are parties to the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The revised treaty seeks to promote economic integration among the States Parties and to create a single CARICOM Single Market Economy (CSME). Although Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Dominica, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname have not yet put in place the required mechanism to accept the CCJ as their final court, they can nevertheless use the CCJ to deal with treaty matters and international law issues, but after 42 months only one single CSME issue reached the CCJ.
It is a case filed by the Trinidad Cement Limited and TCL Guyana Incorporation against the Co-operative Republic of Guyana AR 1/2008, an application for Special Leave to appear as parties before the Court.
The question therefore remains is whether the Court is serving very little use. Will it be a white elephant and will it eventually die like The West Indies Federation? A lot of money is being spent on the regional court, which is grossly under-utilised, since only two of the twelve countries are making full use of the court and only a handful of cases, mainly from Guyana, were dealt with.
Funds to operate the well-equipped Court in Port of Spain are administered by a Trust Fund, which has been established and capitalised in the sum of US$100 million by the Caribbean Development Bank, and the CARICOM Secretariat has had indications of interest in contributing to the Fund from sections of the international donor community.
The Heads of Government have mandated Ministers of Finance to provide funding for the recurrent expenses of the Court for the first five years of its operation. The question is what happens after April 16, 2010, the expiration of the five-year period? An eminent Caribbean Lawyer, Dame Dr Bernice Lake, QC, an Anguilla Attorney, told the Daily Observer in Antigua the day the CCJ judges were in Antigua, that regional governments disenfranchised the public when they set up the CCJ without referenda.
Dame Bernice said, "The Caribbean governments have not done what the constitutional prescription envisages" and criticised the regional governments for rushing into the setting up of the court and now essentially leaving the court in limbo.
She added, "I believe that it has been the case that the political leaders who spearheaded this new court have taken the view that this was to be their legacy and they have rushed into without putting into place the underpinnings of education and consultation." It is very unfortunate that the regional court is still limping after such relatively long period.
I have no doubt that the judges would like to have much more work in order to develop a Caribbean jurisprudence since they are better suited to the needs of the Caribbean people because they are grounded in the region.
Dame Bernice suggested that the governments of all countries requiring constitutional referenda should conduct the processes simultaneously in an effort to prevent the result of earlier referenda unduly influencing subsequent ones.
But, in my humble and respectful suggestion, before this can be done, CARICOM should take the lead in this regard by organising with an influential lobbyist to work along with the ten defaulting governments, as well as the opposition, in order to achieve this goal.

Party line and regional unity

United Caribbean: Party line and regional unity
Published on: 11/28/08.
by Michelle Cave

Source:Nation Newspaper ( Barbados)

NOT ONE TERRIBLY KEEN on domestic politicking, I have to admit to being highly surprised and even pleased at the actions last week of the Barbados Prime Minister.

As Mr Barack Obama, the United States president elect, picks his teams, Mr Thompson has seen the wisdom in matching personality to portfolio, a brave and commendable act, surely.
Over the past few weeks, the Bajan public has been regaled with tales of the Federation of the 1950s. The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus' Archives Department put on a stellar show with many speaking on implications of the Federation, what we have learnt and what we can apply.

Of course, this is a different world today than in the 1950s, and I would like to think that Caribbean people – as a people, as leaders – have grown since then.

In the 1950s when real, responsible government and real constitutional change were within reach of most of these islands, Federation was the choice the emerging political leaders and the British at home and in the colonies thought of as the best way forward.

Federation would bring the islands together under one political and economic banner. Individual self-government was seen initially as a silly, improbable and impractical way to develop the West Indies or have them interacting in and with the world trading system as it existed then.
The work then was seen to be to weld the diversity of the region into a united nation.

In the 1950s the choice was clear. Caribbean development could follow one of two models of federation: the Australian (weak central authority) or the Canadian/Nigerian (strong central authority).

The Australian model won over and major supports like a federal income tax, which would have made the federal experiment financially independent, was forbidden for the first five years that the Federation existed. Many say this sounded its death knell.

Others said the Canadian or Nigerian models were more appropriate – a powerful central government was needed.

By 1960 though, self-government was within sight, and the conversation of what type of Federation and collective development/government was off the table everywhere – an unnecessary dialogue.

But Sir Shridath Ramphal spoke to this, stating it was alarming and worthy of attention by today's political leaders and those considering contributing to social development via the political domain.

The leaders of the Caribbean at that time, grown out of the union movements or educational opportunities, bandied across the radiowaves insults and jibes at each other, denigrating each other and each other's contribution to the unification process – sometimes with such venom that now it makes one wonder whether we as a people have grown up and are assured enough in our personal and collective power to pool enough sovereignty, hard won as it has been, to a central body, supranational in nature, to make a political, and a monetary union work.

The question that is begging to be asked is this: why has Caribbean unification, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the Caribbean Court of Justice, any of the instruments of regionalism, never made the agenda of any political party's election platform in the Caribbean?
Or maybe another question is more appropriate: what will it take for Caribbean unity to be on political parties' agendas? It needs to be if we truly are going to move forward.

November 24, 2008

Self reliance and the CCJ

Self-reliance and the CCJ
published: Saturday November 22, 2008
Jamaica Gleaner
The Editor, Sir:

I read with a great deal of interest the articles 'What can we learn from the Irish?' by John Rapley and 'Patrick Robinson and the Caribbean Court' by Devon Dick in today's Gleaner (Nov 20).

Mr Rapley made the point that the Irish only started to develop when they abandoned all excuses for their condition and took responsibility for their country.

Mr Dick spoke about some of the brilliant judges Jamaica has produced and wondered why we cannot move from the Privy Council to a Caribbean Court of Appeal. These articles are so closely related that it's almost as if these gentlemen collaborated on them.

The irony of this apparent synchronisation became even stronger when Mr Dick mentioned that it was an Irish company (Digicel) which first had faith in Usain Bolt who has made all Jamaicans (and West Indians) so proud this year.

lack of self-confidence

I congratulate Messrs Rapley and Dick on these wonderful articles. The lack of self-confidence indicated by both gentlemen is indeed our main stumbling block to development. Our failure to take control of our justice system, through the CCJ, is one of the most glaring examples of this lack of self-confidence and dependency syndrome that we have.

Another example, which I will write about at another time, was the question by some Jamaicans as to what Barack Obama will do for the Caribbean. When we become independent, we will realise that the important question is not what Barack Obama can do for the Caribbean, but what he can do to make a safer and fairer world in which we can make our way through our own efforts.

Living in Trinidad, I pass the headquarters of the CCJ every day. Each day, I remember how idle the court is while my final court of appeal remains in the UK - a country I cannot even visit without a visa.

deep sense of shame

I feel a deep sense of shame in our impotence as Caribbean people. If we felt that we were not quite ready to control our justice system, we could, at least, have set a target date for us to achieve independence from the Privy Council.

We have not even do that. And, please don't get me started on my head of state - a wonderful lady who also resides in that wonderful country I cannot visit without a visa. It appears that we intend to remain dependentsforever.

Mr Rapley pointed out that the Irish "were messing up for much longer before they got their act right". I suppose we intend to beat that record.

I am, etc.,

10 Schooner Court
Trinidad & Tobago

IJCHR opposed to amendment of law on death penalty

IJCHR opposed to amendment of law on death penalty
Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Source: Radio Jamaica

Ahead of the conscience vote in Parliament on the retention of the death penalty, the Independent Jamaica Council on Human Rights (IJCHR) is already objecting to a proposed constitutional amendment which could make it easier to carry out the death penalty.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Jamaica's highest court of appeal, held in the case of Pratt and Morgan v. Attorney General of Jamaica that holding a convicted man on death row for more than five years violated the constitutional prohibition against inhuman or degrading punishment, and that all death sentences should be commuted to life imprisonment.
The former PNP government had contended that it was not possible to carry out all the appeal processes involved in death sentence matters within five years.
Since then, Barbados has amended its constitution to state that a delay in carrying out the death penalty does not amount to cruel and inhuman punishment.
The Opposition in Jamaica has insisted that unless Jamaica enacts a similar provision, the country will not be able to resume hanging, regardless of the outcome of the conscience vote.
The government has agreed to an amendment. With Parliament expected to resume its debate on the matter Tuesday afternoon, the IJCHR says it is opposed to any such constitutional change.
The IJCHR says such a move would dishonour fundamental human rights provisions that the constitution aids in securing. According to Nancy Anderson, Legal Officer for the IJCHR, such an amendment would be a breach of law and Jamaica's international obligations."The proposed amendment would deprive every court, whether a court in Jamaica, Caribbean Court of Justice or the Privy Council of its essential right to enquire into and decide whether a condemned person is being treated fairly in relation to the manner in which the death penalty is being imposed or executed."
Ms Andersons claims that the amendment would conflict with the rule of law and the principles of the constitution of Jamaica.
"This is not only unprincipled, but a dangerous precedent for the executive and the legislature to override judicial decisions which express fundamental principles of the constitution."
Constitutional rights at risk
According to Ms. Anderson, greater emphasis should be placed on making judicial systems more efficient, instead of meddling with the constitution."
We've noticed that there's been considerable attention based on the five year limit as set in the Pratt and Morgan case ... without admitting that the major cause of the delay relates to the inefficiencies of Jamaica's justice system."She is contending that there is no justification for such far-reaching constitutional changes instead of taking the necessary measures to eliminate delays and efficiencies.
"If such important constitutional changes can be made in such circumstances then all our constitutional rights are at great risk."
While addressing party supporters at the party's annual conference on Sunday, Prime Minister Bruce Golding reiterated that the Government would push towards a change in the five year limit for people on death row if the conscience vote rules in favour of retaining the death penalty.

November 16, 2008

Carribean Unity

Caribbean unity: An idea whose time has come, again
published: Sunday November 16, 2008
Jamaica Gleaner

The momentum of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) along with the Manning Initiative of recent months towards greater Caribbean unity forces us to consider again whether Caribbean unity is an idea whose time has come, again, with a chance to grasp it this time.

But the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe even more recently has caused us to ask the opposite, that being, whether Caribbean unity is an idea whose time has gone. A still more recent event, of two weeks ago, forces us to answer that question.

If we expect Barack Obama to help us, we must know what kind of Caribbean we want and how we are helping ourselves. We must know whether we stand together or only pose for pictures together. We must be able to tell Obama if we stand with the United States or Europe on trade issues at the World Trade Organisation in pursuit of a vision of the Americas. We must be able to say if we stand with or apart from the African and Pacific countries as members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, especially since Obama will almost certainly establish a bridge with Africa.

OECS momentum

This is the 50th anniversary of the start of that bold experiment, the Federation of the West Indies, the high point of Caribbean political unity. When Alexander Bustamante took Jamaica out of it, the other countries took the sensible view that those among them could still form whatever union they wished. Interest was particularly strong among the 'Little Eight'. By 1966, they had established the West Indies Associated States Council of Ministers and by 1968, the Eastern Caribbean Common Market. By 1981, they had established the Orgainsation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). They subscribed to a common currency, central bank, supreme court, political authority of heads of governments, telecommunications authority and civil aviation authority.

They launched a new momentum in 2001. A new draft treaty seeks to create an economic union with the "constitutional, political and economic changes that would be necessary" for this and to meet the challenges of globalisation. The OECS is on the verge of becoming a federal-type political union where the political authority of heads of governments will have the competence to pass legislation that would become law in the member countries.

The federal authority will have competence to decide on matters of the common market and customs union, monetary policy, trade policy, maritime jurisdiction, civil aviation, commercial policy, environmental policy and immigration policy. The heads of government will be supported by a council of ministers and an assembly of parliamentarians elected in the member territories.
The Manning Initiative of August 2008 represents Trinidad's interest in forming a political union with Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and any other country that is interested. There was an earlier 'Manning initiative' of 1992, which sought to join Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana in a political union. Trinidad's petro-power combined with fears that CARICOM might not achieve its single market and economy by a date already postponed to 2015 might be the key new motivators.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines, himself a key supporter of West Indian political unity, said two things at a lecture at the University of the West Indies on November 3. Should Trinidad join the OECS, it would only be a matter of time before Barbados and Guyana do so. Second, CARICOM's single market and economy, if it should come into being at all, will require the political authority similar to that which the OECS has. Otherwise, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) will not work.

Movement for federation

The question of course now becomes, where would all of this leave Jamaica? The Jamaica Labour Party has been opposed to any political union or region building say through the Caribbean Court of Justice and the single economy. The People's National Party (PNP), on the other hand, initially led the movement for federation and remains committed to everything but political union. Yet, globalisation and the special crises of food, energy, crime and climate change have changed everything and Jamaica's inability to stand alone economically suggests that the party must rethink this position. The PNP's progressive agenda must take up, study and canvass the country on the kind of rea-listic political engagement we can have with the rest of the Caribbean.

If the OECS movement is an idea of Caribbean unity whose time has come, then signs suggest that the CARICOM movement is an idea of Caribbean unity whose time might have gone. CARICOM has failed to establish an authority that can implement heads of govern-ment decisions though a CARICOM commission was recommended as long ago as 1992. The single market and economy has been postponed to 2015. But the CSME will falter without the political authority rejected in 1962 and 1992 to exercise competence in common areas across the common territories to make the CSME effective. Furthermore, just in October, CARICOM leaders, led by Jamaica, signed away CARI-COM's economic authority when they signed the EPA which gives Europe the final word on any matter on which CARICOM trade conflicts with the agreement.

CARICOM has opened doors to Europe that it has not opened to the United States. Take the ethanol industry, for example. Jamaica's new ethanol industry has a very important market in the US. The market in the US is guaranteed under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA). The CBERA comes up for renewal in 2010. America's position might be that since we have given Europe access to our markets and accepted that Europe should remove preferences for our exports then it should have these privileges as well. We could therefore lose our CBERA benefits and a minimum ethanol market.

Brazil's investment in our sugar factories and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica was promising because its ethanol production in Jamaica could get access to the US market under the CBERA and make up the quota that we cannot fill at the moment. But, if the US terminates the CBERA for a free-trade agreement with Jamaica, as some fear it will, then Jamaica would be of no advantage to Brazil, and Brazil will lose interest in the sugar cane industry, if it has not begun to do so already. Brazil, remember, cannot export ethanol to the US without facing high tariffs because of US protectionism. Even if the US is sympathetic to Jamaica, it would be conceding its market to Brazil through the back door of the CBERA and its powerful ethanol producers would be angry. Obama has already said he stood for energy independence, which means supporting local ethanol producers against competitors like Brazil.


Jamaica should tie its fortunes to energy giants like Brazil, Venezuela and Trinidad. But, they are moving towards closer integration, while Jamaica is moving towards greater disintegration. Caribbean unity is a strategy for survival by making alliances with each other and with states that are going to be important in the new global order that is taking shape. If we have been on the wrong side of history we need to get on the right side of the future.

Robert Buddan lectures in the Department of Government, University of the West Indies, Mona. Email: or

November 12, 2008

Opposition ties Privy Council issue to death penalty vote

Hanging knot - Opposition ties Privy Council issue to death penalty vote
Source: Jamaica Observer
Publication date: November 12, 2008

The Opposition will today seek to push its long held position for Jamaica to discontinue appeals to the United Kingdom Privy Council when legislators meet to take a conscience vote on capital punishment in the House of Representatives.

Opposition MP Robert Pickersgill signalled his side's intention when he told the House yesterday during the opening of the debate that the Opposition would propose an amendment to the Constitution that could, if accepted, make the Governor General's Privy Council the island's final appeal court.

The change, Pickersgill said, would ask that the "Constitution of Jamaica be amended to remove the five-year stricture in relation to the carrying out of the death penalty after conviction, and also that the rulings of the Governor General's Privy Council concerning the prerogative of mercy cannot be inquired into in a court of law".

The proposed amendment will likely trigger heated debate, as the Government has not changed its position that voters should decide whether to discard the UK Privy Council for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

In June 2003, Jamaica formally signed on to the CCJ, which has been mired in political controversy since it was first proposed.

However, in February 2005, the UK Privy Council, on a case mounted by the then Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and civil society groups, ruled as unconstitutional, the route taken by the Jamaican Government to establish the CCJ as its final court.

The law lords held that while the Government could end appeals to the UK-based court by a simple parliamentary majority, special procedures were required to entrench the CCJ as a court superior to the Jamaica Court of Appeal.

The implication is that establishment of the CCJ as Jamaica's final court will require either a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament and/or the winning vote in a referendum.

Yesterday, the Government, now formed by the JLP, pointed to the issue, saying that the Opposition's proposed amendment appeared to be an attempt to replace the Privy Council as the country's final court of appeal. But Pickersgill suggested that this would be the basis on which the Opposition will vote today.

"The Opposition contends that this motion before us as worded and tabled really represents a treading of water: it takes us nowhere," Pickersgill said.He said that, unless some specific undertaking is given by the Government, in this Parliament, as to what it intends to do in the event of a vote for the retention of the death penalty, it did not make any sense to continue with the debate."This debate and conscience vote would amount to nothing more than a grand public relations attempt signifying nothing," he said. "The way they are going, the Privy Council is going to find an excuse. The goal post is shifting."

Prime Minister Bruce Golding said that the Government did not accept that it was impossible to complete all the necessary processes leading up to the punishment within five years."Therefore, we do not accept that the only way that capital punishment can be imposed is by going the Barbados route to avoid the Pratt and Morgan strictures," Golding said, referring to the Privy Council ruling that prohibits persons being put to death if they have been on death row for more than five years."There is no person on death row now who has exhausted his right of appeal. Of the eight of them on death row, every one of them still has time to go," Golding said. He said that the Government is introducing technology to speed up the process.