December 29, 2010

Dancing away from the CCJ

Dancing away from the CCJ
Ex-St Lucia PM sees 'bleak future' for Caricom
Source: Jamaica Observer
Published: December 29, 2010

APPREHENSION over future leadership at the Georgetown-based Caribbean Community Secretariat has now grown to include the future of the Port-of-Spain-headquartered Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

In the case of the latter, current talk in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to dance away from accessing the CCJ in preference for establishing their own final appeal court has drawn a sharp rebuke from Dr Kenny Anthony, a former prime minister of St Lucia. He had played a key role in the formation of the CCJ when he headed the legal division of the Community Secretariat.

There will, therefore, be no formal handing over by the retired Carrington to his successor when Caricom leaders hold their scheduled first Inter-Sessional Meeting for 2011 in Grenada in February,With the surprise decision by Edwin Carrington to step down as Caricom secretary general at the end of this month after 18 years of service, Deputy Secretary General Lolila Applewaithe will begin acting as secretary general from January 1.

A new six-month chairmanship also begins next month when host for the coming Inter-Sessional Meeting in St George's, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas takes over from his Jamaican counterpart, Bruce Golding.

While he has been quite forthcoming in articulating Caricom's support for Haiti and speaking reassuringly about regional economic integration, it is Prime Minister Golding who, within recent weeks, has further contributed to deep concerns over the future of the CCJ.

As if seeking political cover under an idea initially raised in Trinidad and Tobago -- but yet to be advocated as official policy -- Prime Minister Golding is marketing an initiative for Jamaica to replace the Privy Council in London with its own final court of appeal.

With no known appetite for the CCJ, Golding and his Jamaica Labour Party (under earlier leadership as well), have long been ducking the challenge of accessing the regional court by linking such a move with the need for a national referendum

Read that proposition to mean, basically, more faith in the competence and integrity in the British law lords of the Privy Council than the fine legal minds this region has produced across member states, and with arduous efforts to ensure appointments free from the political influences so often talked about with respect to the functioning of local judiciaries.

The situation becomes even more intriguing when it is understood that a national referendum to replace the Privy Council is not really a necessity in the case of Jamaica, as it is in countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Further, various British law lords associated with the Privy Council have been urging former British colonies, like ours in Caricom, to initiate arrangements to break the dependency syndrome on the Privy Council.

How sad, in contrast, to hear Caricom leaders like Golding and his Trinidadian counterpart, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, talking about replacing the Privy Council with their respective final appeal court.

At the same time, they steadfastly avoid encouragement to access the CCJ -- as Barbados, Guyana and Belize have done -- with a court of original jurisdiction in resolving trade disputes as well as serving as the final appellate institution of the entire community.

In St, Lucia, Dr Anthony's expression of "surprise and bewilderment" came in his response to the emerging tactics, both in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, to push the idea of a final national court of appeal without any commitment to the CCJ.

Anthony, known for his robust advocacy of development of a West Indian jurisprudence, believes that if Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago persist in spreading the notion of individual final appeal courts it would strike a "lethal blow" to the furthering of any support for the CCJ.

He is bewildered by what he views as a "disingenuous" contention to avoid political influence in the case of the CCJ. If indeed, said Anthony, the CCJ "is susceptible to political influence -- as is being claimed in Jamaica, for instance, then how much more could a Jamaican (or T&T) final appeal court be affected by political manipulations?"

The prospect, therefore, as he lamented, for realising the full benefits of creating a Caribbean Community, as envisaged by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, "is becoming bleaker and bleaker if we cannot be committed to so compelling a case for region-wide endorsement of the CCJ.

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