A significant piece of legislation aimed at consolidating Saint Lucia’s status as an independent nation will be debated in parliament in the New Year.
The Constitution Amendment Bill, which will lay the legal framework for membership of the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), will come up for seconding reading.
This will be another major step in the ongoing process through which Saint Lucia terminates its obligations to the British-based Privy Council as the court for final decisions on criminal and civil cases.
The Government of Saint Lucia, via exchange of correspondence, has already obtained the agreement of the Government of the United Kingdom to de-link from the Privy Council and join the CCJ’s Appellate Jurisdiction, which at present includes Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana.
Pursuant to the procedure laid out in the Constitution, Prime Minister, Hon. Philip J Pierre, on 11th October, 2022, laid the Constitution Amendment Bill for first reading in the House of Assembly. The Bill is awaiting its second reading, which is due by the second week of January 2023, in compliance with the minimum 90-day interval between the first and second readings ordered by the Constitution.
Accession to the CCJ’s Appellate Jurisdiction will require a number of amendments to the Saint Lucia Constitution, specifically the provisions of the Supreme Court Order which requires the votes of not less than three-quarters of all the members of the House.
The process of joining the Trinidad and Tobago-based CCJ is being managed by the CCJ Accession Committee, chaired by Retired CCJ President, Sir Dennis Byron, who is also a former Chief Justice of the OECS Supreme Court.
Saint Lucia already has an organic association with the CCJ, having acceded, along with 11 other CARICOM Member States, to the Original Jurisdiction of the Court in February 2001. Saint Lucia also paid its one-time subscription around that time. In its Original Jurisdiction, the CCJ serves as an arbiter of disputes that may arise between member states as they pursue their rights and obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Local consultation on the government’s intention to accede to the CCJ’s Appellate Jurisdiction began months ago with a four-hour meeting between representatives of the CCJ Accession Committee and Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Allen Castanet. A press briefing on the work of the Committee was held on 15th September at the Studio of the Government Information Service when Chairman, Sir Dennis Byron and Attorney General, Hon. Leslie Mondesir, gave an update on Saint Lucia’s mission to accede to the CCJ.
Consultations will continue with as many representative groups as possible in the New Year. Media discussions and town hall-style meetings are also planned.
The CCJ Accession Committee was formed in March 2022, and its existence was formally announced in the Throne Speech by His Excellency the Acting Governor General,H.E. Errol Charles, later that month. His Excellency stated then that the country was expected to become the fifth CARICOM member state to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ.