October 06, 2009

Commentary: Law and Politics: Progress and change must go together
Published on Tuesday, October 6, 2009
By Lloyd Noel
Source: Caribbean Net News

Progress is not a movement from some bad place where you think you are, to some perfect place you would like to be. Progress is about the development of oneself and by extension that of the society as a whole.

And in our situation in Grenada today, change is not just a promise, it is an absolute necessity that we must change the society as a whole.

To do otherwise is like saying to those coming thereafter, that if Tom Dick and Harry, could get away with the wrong-doing in public office then so can you; and the need for genuine change to bring about real progress, will remain a hopeless dream and pie in the sky wishful thinking, that will always take us backwards and never forward.

There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that the society we are struggling under, for the majority to make a living of survival now-a-days, must be changed, turned around or upside down, taken or removed from the state or feeling of stagnation or hopelessness and pushed, or prodded, or whatever it may take, to bring about some measure of progress and peaceful living and genuine survival.

The lawlessness in too many areas are becoming the order of the day, whether it is simply walking into people’s yard or areas around the houses, and taking away any and everything they can carry; or going into gardens and farmlands and either stealing crops to go and sell, as though they planted and cared them for market; or maliciously chopping up and rooting up fruits and plants and leaving the poor farmer in economic distress; and even cruelly damaging animals and poultry for pure spite, because the culprits have some grudge or axe to grind with the owners, all these and those are now common place all over the country side.

Some people are behaving as though they have no regard, or respect, or concern for lawful authority and the consequences that would flow from being caught and prosecuted.

And to make bad matters even worse when they are caught and found guilty, and the magistrate impose the penalty provided by the law, others misguidedly take it upon themselves to protest, and complain and accuse the magistrate for being too harsh and draconian in enforcing the law. We need more such judicial officers, like the very fearless one we have in the Western district.

We are hearing about violent incidents with knives and cutlasses now-a-day, as though the law pertaining to offensive weapons has been abolished.

The police force have to be much more proactive with their presence and operations all over the country and not just for Marijuana plants detection.

The rise in criminal activities is escalating far too rapidly and remedial action must be taken without further delay to curb this menace, or else we will soon join our neighbours to the North and South in terms of their frightening reputation for uncontrollable violent crimes.

And should that situation ever be reached in these Isles, it would be worse than a hurricane disaster, because the one attribute we have and it remained intact after Ivan and Emily, is that all our visitors from wherever are always commenting with confidence how peaceful and safe and fearless they feel on the streets and other night spots when in Grenada.

True enough one or two ugly incidents have occurred in the recent past involving a few visitors, but those few have been isolated instances that must be kept that way.

We cannot afford to pretend, that we do not know or not hearing about the wrong-doing taking place around the country, and getting worse and more tragic with every other incident and close our eyes and ears to the reality.

Because if we continue to maintain that position, and always feeling the problem is for those in authority to solve and nothing to do with us the shock waves will be much harder to cope with when it reaches our door steps, as it most certainly will in one way or another.

We have to be our brothers and sisters keeper and share their grief; we have to co-operate with the law enforcement officers, and those in control and authority, to help bring about the changes that are necessary if we truly want to see progress for our people.

And in talking about change and progress at this time, and about what is taking place around the Island of Grenada especially – in connection with the increasing incidents of criminal activities and lawlessness in general – the topic of our final Court of Appeal at the Privy Council in London, for all our English speaking CARICOM states except Barbados and Guyana, has again raised its troublesome head for further discussion and decision among other states.

All the CARICOM states upon gaining their Independence from the early nineteen sixties continued to use the Privy Council as their Final Court of Appeal.

Among all the other reasons, it was a free service to all Commonwealth countries from the motherland and the Head of State in Her Majesty.

And even when many of the bigger states opted for Republican status with their local Head of State, they still kept the Privy Council as their Final Court of Appeal. Trinidad and Tobago is a good example right next door.

In our cases in the OECS, we had no choice because we simply could not afford to finance a Final Court of Appeal, in addition to the first Court of Appeal we were already sharing as the Associated States Supreme Court.

Guyana dropped the Privy council when it went Republic and the Barbados government was peeved over a decision against it from the Privy Council and decided to go its own way, although it kept the Queen as the Head of State, and continued to be called or known as little England.

The Privy Council is staffed by Law Lords from the Former House of Lords – or Upper House of the British Parliament in England. And that in itself was a very peculiar arrangement that could perhaps only operate in England where so many things, and systems, and ways of life, have for centuries functioned on the basis and strengths of convention.

In effect those Law Lords – very distinguished and learned lawyers, who became judges and later elevated to the highest level of the Court of Appeal – were sitting in Parliament where the laws are made, and later on sitting in a court as judges to rule on the very laws.

Now from the first of October, 2009, that peculiar system is no more in existence. From that date the Supreme Court of England has taken over the role of the House of Lords as the Final Appellate Court in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales (The British Isles).

Under the new law passed through Parliament, eleven of those Law Lords who form that court, have moved out of Parliament and into their own independent Supreme Court Building, to sit only as Appeal Court Judges.

And going with them into that new setting is the long standing portfolio of the Final Appellate Court of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, for those Commonwealth Countries which still maintain that judicial linkage.

And with that change in the British Legal system that has been in existence for many, many centuries, and has served us with distinction, integrity, and enduring confidence since independence, the hue and cry has already started, that we in the CARICOM region must see this move as the beginning of the end, and make haste to find our own Caribbean Final Appellate Court.

This call to cut our ties with England as the final Appellate Court is not new.

In fact our CARICOM leaders some years ago amended the Treaty of Chaguaramas, to bring into force the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), and in that amended treaty that ALL the region’s leaders at the time signed, provision is made therein for the (CCJ) Caribbean Court of Justice, which is expected to perform a dual role as our highest court in the region.

The first role deals with disputes among or between states, over the interpretation of the CSME. Rules and Procedures, and that came into operation as a matter of course.

The bigger problem concerns the second role of the CCJ, as the Final Appellate Court for those states in CARICOM which have been using the Privy Council as such, from the time of their Independence.

Of course, Guyana and Barbados had opted out of that arrangement before the CSME came into being, so they are the only two states now using the CCJ as their Final Court of Appeal.

Needless to emphasize the point that the whole exercise towards bringing the remaining states into readiness to adopt the new court as their Final Appellate Court is fully tied up or entangled in politics between opposition groups in the respective states.

The governments in power either have to go to the people by way of a referendum for authority, or must have a certain level of the majority seats in Parliament to be able to pass the enabling legislation.

And therein lays the dilemma towards any formal movement. Even those who signed the CSME Treaty when they were in power are now in opposition with second thoughts.

St Vincent and the Grenadines have taken the lead and I believe Belize have also published its intention to move ahead by year end.

Elsewhere in the region, it is all lip service and grave un-certainty about where we going and how we plan to get there.

Loads of doubt about that change is very prevalent among a very wide cross section of our people.

And the major question remains large and looming among the many doubters on this matter are we ready and prepared to make that drastic change, at this or anytime soon?

And from my own perspective, I cannot help or resist the query, would that change go together with the progress we are currently aiming to achieve?

Only time and coming events will fully answer those questions.

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