1. On 14 February 2001 Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia signed the Agreement Establishing the CCJ. Saint Lucia subsequently ratified this Agreement. Under Article XXV of the Agreement, Saint Lucia, as a Contracting Party, agreed that decisions of its Court of Appeal will lie to the CCJ. Accession to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ will ensure that Saint Lucia falls into full compliance with its solemn international obligation, completing the groundwork carefully laid by Dr Anthony.
2. Saint Lucia has contributed its fair share to the CCJ Trust Fund whose purpose is to provide the resources necessary to finance the biennial capital and operating budget of the Court and the Commission in perpetuity. The country has therefore paid millions of dollars for an asset of which it is not making full use.
3. The jurisprudence of the CCJ is regarded regionally and internationally with the utmost respect. Decisions of the CCJ are cited with approval in other courts regionally and internationally (including in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council). The legal profession in Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica are fully satisfied with the jurisprudence and services offered by the CCJ.
4. The experiences of those CARICOM States that delinked from the Privy Council to accede to the CCJ’s Appellate Jurisdiction (Barbados, Belize and Dominica) have one thing in common. The volume of their second-tier appeals has climbed enormously. Accession to the CCJ enhances access to justice on a grand scale.
5. It is far more expensive for a litigant to pursue an Appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council than it is to appeal to the CCJ. Indeed, this is one of the reasons that underpin item 4 above. Pursuing an appeal to the Judicial Committee is cost- prohibitive. Accession to the CCJ makes it possible for more people to appeal to their highest court.
6. The CCJ’s case filing and case management is second to none. Long before the pandemic the CCJ modelled electronic filing and electronic case management, well ahead of other courts in or for the region.
7. Unlike, for example, the OECS States of Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Lucia does not absolutely require a popular referendum to accede to the CCJ. This has been confirmed by the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal. Nor is it ideal that this pivotal step be taken by popular referendum. Indeed, none of the most momentous steps in Saint Lucia’s history was referred to a referendum. There was no referendum taken to impose slavery or to end it, or to institute universal adult suffrage, or to join the West Indian federation, or to become an Associated State, or to become independent. The present Government is entitled to take this fundamental step by the votes of the representatives of the people sitting in Parliament as was done in Dominica.
8. Accession by Saint Lucia to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ will set another powerful example to the remainder of CARICOM and in particular to OECS States even more so than the courageous step taken earlier by the Commonwealth of Dominica.
9. The interpretation of law and the rendering of justice cannot be divorced from an understanding of the mores and culture of the place where the dispute originates. Saint Lucia’s final appeals are currently heard by a court in London, comprised of British judges who have little or no appreciation of the dreams and aspirations and challenges of the people of Saint Lucia. That is not ideal.
10. Acceding to the CCJ is the eminently right thing to do. The present situation is unsustainable. It reserves to a privileged few the right to appeal to the highest court. The CCJ is no longer an idea. It is and has been a living reality for over 15 years. It serves with distinction hundreds of thousands of CARICOM citizens. There is no better time for Saint Lucia to leave the JCPC.