June 06, 2011

What’s up with the CCJ?

SOURCE: June 4, 2011 | By KNews | Filed Under Letters

Dear Editor,
There are three pressing questions that must be asked of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ): Why has it not filled its two existing vacancies?

Why is its constitutional age limit of 70 years not being enforced? And why it has never had an East Indian Justice on the court?

Collectively, these three questions represent a worrying trend that may seriously undermine the credibility of the court if they are not addressed forthwith.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the Caribbean regional judicial tribunal that was established on 14 February 2001. There were 10 initial members: Antigua & Barbuda; Barbados; Belize; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; St. Kitts & Nevis; St. Lucia; Suriname; and Trinidad & Tobago. Two other member states, Dominica and St. Vincent & The Grenadines, joined on 15 February 2003, bringing the total members to 12. he CCJ came into force on 23 July 2003, and the CCJ was inaugurated on 16 April 2005 in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

Currently, two of the judicial nine seats are vacant. Why is this entity that purports to represent the CARICOM region unable to seat a full court?

Are these ongoing vacancies symptomatic of the low esteem the legal profession has for this body? It is worthwhile getting an answer as to what’s up with the CCJ.

Are the constitution age limits being ignored given the apparent inability to attract a full slate of judges?

My understanding is that there is an age limit of 70 and two of the current Justices, Michael de la Bastide at 74 and Desiree Bernard at 72, are now beyond that age. Is the highest court in the region ignoring its own rules? What’s up with the CCJ?

How come there has never been an East Indian Justice on the Court? Given the East Indian majority in population in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, and the glorious legal heritage that east Indian have added to the profession via the Luckhoos, Persauds and Singhs it does beg the question why no East Indian? West Indies cricket has suffered from racial discrimination through its history which is in no small part responsible for the sport being on its death bed. Is its legal system doing the same? It would be nice to get an honest answer.

Vijay P. Kumar