September 29, 2009



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Source: Jamaica Observer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) - Two Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders last week endorsed a recent statement by a prominent British jurist that regional countries need to abandon the long-standing practice of having the London-based Privy Council function as their highest court.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said Lord Phillips, the president of the new British Supreme Court, "essentially delivered a notice to quit colonial premises to countries like St Vincent and the Grenadines, which still send their final appeals to the Privy Council".

Lord Phillips, in an interview with the Financial Times, said he was searching for new ways to curb the "disproportionate" time he and other senior justices spent hearing legal appeals from independent Commonwealth countries, like those in Caricom, to the Privy Council.

He said he was concerned that judges who staff the Supreme Court could end up spending as much as 40 per cent of their working time on Privy Council business.

"It's a huge amount of time. I personally would like to see it reduced. It's disproportionate," Lord Phillips told the Financial Times.

Grenada Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, who is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly, welcomed the announcement but said the region is well aware of the need to set up institutions to deal with its own affairs and stressed that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) must be fully established.

"I'm very happy to hear it being said. But we did not have to wait for the British judge to tell us that. I believe we have to set up our own institutions to deal with our own affairs. I see no strong reasons why it's difficult in setting up our own courts," Thomas told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

The CCJ, established by regional governments in 2001, has both an original and appellate jurisdiction. But, while most Caricom countries are members of the original jurisdiction that functions as an international tribunal, hearing disputes arising from the interpretation and application of the Revised Treaty under the Caricom Single Market and Economy, only Barbados and Guyana have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction.

In recent weeks, there have been increased calls for Caribbean governments to fully endorse the CCJ, with St Lucia's former prime minister Kenny Anthony, a lawyer, welcoming the decision by Belize and Dominica to move away from the Privy Council.

Some regional jurists have, however, expressed misgivings about the CCJ, alleging that it may be open to political interference, a criticism dismissed by the CCJ itself and the Regional Judicial and Legal Service Commission.

Prime Minister Thomas said Caribbean governments should not be deterred from turning to their own court.

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