The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Accession Committee (Saint Lucia) held a press conference recently to kick off its public education and visibility drive.
The event was a follow up to an initial media engagement in September last year; a draft legislation makes provision for Saint Lucia’s transition from the British Privy Council to the CCJ.
Upon completion of the legal and constitutional process the CCJ will officially be recognized as Saint Lucia’s final appellate court.
“We think it’s important that people know about the Criminal Code of Justice, understand what is happening in terms of changing from one apex court to another and they understand how it’s going to affect their lives (and) what benefits they are going to get from it. Our role is to educate and provide public information,” Sir Denis Byron, former Chief Justice of the Caribbean Supreme Court and former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice told reporters.
He added that “many people have told us that they lacked information with hope that we can fill that gap.”
The committee is working on the arrangements and logistics for the town hall meeting series, David Vitalis, an experienced media practitioner and committee member noted.
According to him, “when we met last September, we had promised a rollout of deeper and wider communications and education on the mission that we are about to achieve. We know that it’s a subject that has its sensitivities— accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice and delinking from the Privy Council and Britain. We have been monitoring radio, television talk shows (and) social media so we get the drift of the questions (and) comments that are on people’s minds. We used these concerns and interest to craft a communications programme so we can bring information to as wide a cross section of the community as possible; we have engaged communications partners in this regard.”
He added, “The communications roll out begins today; in terms of the final stuff that we want to see: social media buzz, conventional and digital media ablaze with discussion and comments and questions. Prior to that we had made use of radio programmes… discussion programmes mainly to show the face of the committee and the accession mission. These have gone pretty well. We have been on radio discussion programmes for the last week and a half and we sense that the public discussion was aroused following that.”
Vitalis said the airing of public service announcements and public service advertising in English and Creole will be a part of the package to reach the widest possible audience.
“We are seeking to commence a series of town hall meetings in Vieux Fort; other town hall meetings are slated for Soufriere, Castries and Gros Islet,” noted Vitalis, adding that there are specific topics the committee will present for information and discussion.
He continued, “we got a feel of these subjects… listening to discussions and our own experience with the media and some of these political subjects are the CCJ and full political independence; whether the CCJ is the next step to full or fuller political independence, what the law says about the Supreme Court Order which is the one that is very much discussed in terms of the legal and constitutional process moving forward on accession to the CCJ.”
Vitalis said the committee also spoke about the benefits of having the CCJ as Saint Lucia’s apex court; how CCJ judges are appointed and how the CCJ is funded to remove any perception of political bias and interference.
The Accession committee appealed for media publicity and for support from the public “to not only freely and professionally participate in these communication events, but to engage our committee with your comments and questions via the channels and platforms that we have and will be making available.”
According to Vitalis, “this phase of the public communication programme will take us to March 31, 2023, by which point we will reflect and evaluate to determine largely on public engagement and feedback.”