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Saint Lucia Seeks to Align to CCJ Jurisdiction

From the onset of the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), government personnel have indicated Saint Lucia’s interest in aligning to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.

And now, the current Prime Minister Phillip J..Pierre has reiterated the government’s intention to have the region’s highest appellate court – the CCJ – as the final appellate court for the country.

While speaking to reporters recently, PM Pierre cited the ‘access to justice for the common man’ as one of the advantages in replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ.

“If you are talking about justice for ordinary people, you are talking about justice for the poor man, and there needs to be a final court that you can go to if you are aggrieved,” said Pierre.

He further explained that it costs approximately 5,000 pounds “to begin the filing at the Privy Council,” and this process poses an enormous financial burden and a possible improbable task for the ordinary citizen to undertake.

“So the CCJ will make justice available, will make justice possible for everyone and this is what’s important,” Pierre added.

The prime minister further indicated that with the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration controlling a majority of the seats in parliament, it was not a required necessity to call a referendum on this issue, as has been dictated in other regional territories.

“Because of our majority in parliament, there is no need for any referendum …as this was made clear in some rulings of the court,” he stated

“So we are going to begin the process of consultation,” Pierre disclosed. “The president of the court (CCJ) was here to discuss with the Bar Association, to discuss with civil society and with all parliamentarians …to discuss the CCJ, any misgivings they may have and any information they may need to discuss it.”

From as early as 2003, the then prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony met with a team of officials from the CARICOM Secretariat to hold discussions on the volume of work being expounded on the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Among the matters discussed were the status of financing and steps taken towards ratification of the CCJ by member states of CARICOM.

At the time, it was reported that the governments of St. Lucia, Barbados and Belize had already passed legislation towards the minimum requirements fo r the establishment of the CCJ.

About 5 years later, in 2008, then Prime Minister Stephenson King dispelled media reports, which appeared to suggest that Saint Lucia was not interested in participating in the court. He said contrarily, the fact that the island has already signed on to the CCJ agreement is an indication of the interest to participate and its dedication to the court.

However, King argued that the CCJ does not have a second jurisdiction to the original jurisdiction of settling disputes that may occur between member states of CARICOM, guided under the CARICOM Treaty.

He said the lack of that jurisdiction, which satisfies the CCJ as the final court of appeal in respect to civil and criminal matters, means these matters must still be referred to the Privy Council.

King said that while Saint Lucia is anxious to constitute the CCJ as its final court of appeal, the constitution of St. Lucia provides for certain procedures to be followed, including parliamentary approval, before this can happen.

The CCJ, based in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is within the observance of its 20th anniversary.

Belize, Barbados, Guyana and Dominica are the countries currently attached to the CCJ as the islands’ final court of appeal for civil and criminal matters.

Prime Minister Pierre noted that it would prove a credible undertaking for the ‘Caribbean people’ to have confidence in the region’s institutions.

“It is another chance for us as a people to show that we have confidence in our institutions, like the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) …so St Lucia will be making that step, it’s a step that we are very proud of, but we want to have a ‘buy-in’ from all sectors of the society,” the prime minister asserted.

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