By Oscar Ramjeet
Special To CWNN
CaribWorldNews, BELMOPAN, Belize, Weds. Sept. 16, 2009: There seems to be a glimmer of hope for a few more countries to join the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice.
After five years and five months since its establishment on April 12, 2004, no other country has joined Guyana and Barbados to make the CCJ the final court.
However Belize`s Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, tabled a Bill in Parliament three months ago to remove the Privy Council as the final court and to replace it with the regional court. And the government has been sensitizing the public on the move by holding consultations throughout the country.
Under the Belize constitution, no referendum is required to amend the constitution to remove the Privy Council and the Barrow administration has the required number of votes in Parliament for the amendment.
Last week I spoke with Grenada Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas, and he said that he will soon put mechanism in place to join the regional court. In fact he spoke to officials of the Grenada Bar Association on the issue and they are supporting the move.
While attorneys general and senior law officers were meeting in St. Georges, two regional luminaries in the region Professor Simeon Mc Intosh, Dean of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies and Professor Winston Anderson of the Caribbean Law Institute, were educating Grenadians on the benefits of the regional court.
Dominica Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrett has also announced his intention of joining and it appears that the St. Lucia government is heeding a call from opposition leader, Kenny Anthony, for that country to join.
St. Lucia`s Attorney General, Nicholas Frederick, indicated to me that he is in the process of taking steps to put the required machinery in place to remove the British based Privy Council as the final court.
Meanwhile, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, is pushing for his country to join the regional court, but the multi-island state needs a referendum on the present constitution in order to remove the Privy Council as the final court.
However, the government has decided to overhaul the entire constitution in order to facilitate the court, and at the same time they have decided to make some rapid changes, including replacing the prime minister by an executive president and introducing proportional representation among other changes.
But it is very unfortunate that there has been no word from the two big countries, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, which were in the forefront when the regional court was first advocated for 20 years ago.
Suriname`s Ambassador to Caricom, Manorma Soeknandan, who was in Grenada for the law conferences, told me that Suriname has to put several things in place before it can join. While an eminent Caribbean lawyer, Dame Dr. Bernice Lake, an Anguilla attorney, said that the regional governments disenfranchised the public when they set up the CCJ without referenda.
One wonders why the powers to be sought to establish the Court when there were uncertainties in most of the jurisdictions to join the Court.
The CCJ was established by CARICOM member states not only as the final Court of Appeal replacing the Privy Council, but to resolve disputes between Caribbean countries which are parties to the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Although Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Grenada, Dominica, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis St. Lucia. St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname have not yet accept the CCJ as their final court, they can nevertheless use the CCJ to deal with treaty matters and international legal issues, but after 65 months only about three CSME issues reached the CCJ.
I sincerely hope that before too long, nearly all the states which signed the treaty, will make full use of the regional court.
EDITOR`S NOTE: Oscar Ramjeet is a well known Caribbean journalist and attorney. He has recently taken up an appointment as solicitor general for Belize.