ON Wednesday March 6th 1901 an editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper carried a commentary on the need for the Caribbean to have its own Final Appellate Court. One hundred and fourteen years on we still have those sucking at the breasts of a colonial mother, longing to hold on to a Privy Council that is slapping the child and saying it is time to be weaned.
April 16 2015 marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice, an institution that every true Caribbean citizen should be proud of. The journey started in 1970 at the Sixth Meeting of the Heads of Government of Commonwealth Caribbean Countries, where a Jamaican delegation tabled a proposal for the establishment of a Regional Court of Appeal. In 1971 there was a meeting of the Committee of Attorneys General and a draft report on the Establishment of a regional court was issued.
It took twenty nine years for the Heads of Governments to agree on the establishment of the Court at the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in 1989. Of historical note is that Sir John Compton was at that meeting as Prime Minister of Saint Lucia.
Ten years later the Government of Trinidad and Tobago jumped ahead and agreed in 1999 to house the CCJ in Port of Spain and the Heads of Government approved the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice. Again of historical note, it was BasdeoPanday who was the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in 1999.
By February 2003 the following countries had signed the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice;
Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines
On April 16, 2005, the CCJ was inaugurated at a ceremony held in Port of Spain, the Seat of the Court.
It is of profound interest that the thought started 114 years ago in Jamaica and to date that country still holds on to the Privy Council. Again the cancer of politics is driving the decision process. The Jamaica Labour Party has not embraced the CCJ. Also despite it was a BasdeoPanday led government that agreed to house the CCJ in 1999, the same UNC led by KamlaPersadBissesar has not embraced the CCJ. It is Political Hypocrisy wrapped in the swaddling clothes of concerns for democracy.
The CCJ President – Sir Dennis Byron, who was also at one time the Chief Justice of the OECS, in his comments on the 10th Anniversary admitted that it is an evolutionary process and eventually all will come on board. He indicated that over the past 10 yrs, 160 matters have been filed and 140 disposed at its Apellate Court. Sir Dennis spoke with pride that the Court was awarded the “Most Important Published Decision” by the Global Arbitration Review in 2103 for its decision in the matter British Caribbean Bank v AG of Belize.
It is amazing that Belize who was never on the radar when the CCJ was agreed, has embraced the CCJ as the final court of appeal. Dominica which was the last CARICOM nation to sign on the Agreement in 2003 has moved on to the CCJ. Barbados, a country that is more British than any other country in the Caribbean, moved swiftly in accepting the CCJ. I applaud these countries as well as Guyana.
In Saint Lucia we still have to deal with the mutterings of a few that are locked into a colonial past. These are the ‘House Negroes’ that we have to deal with, who believe that Massa can do no wrong. Well, I would say to these poor souls, that it was capitalism that drove the abolition of slavery and it is capitalism that will drive the Privy Council from our shores. The governments that are slow to act will be told that you either have to pay for the service of the Privy Council or we will cut you off.
I am firmly behind Prime Minister Kenny Anthony in his quest to have Saint Lucia join the CCJ; I believe it is the right decision. It is a campaign promise of the Saint Lucia Labour Party one that I hope he keeps along with the establishment of the Contractor General. The OECS has ruled on the constitutional hindrances of Saint Lucia to accepting the CCJ, there should be no delay on this matter.