Sunday, March 3, 2024

Time to end resistance to CCJ

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THE TARDINESS of regional politicians in dealing with certain fundamental issues can at times be bewildering and discouraging. Perhaps the situation that stands out most is the reticence of some governments about making the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) their final appellate court.
The ongoing discourse on why the region ought to be cautious in any switch from the British Privy Council is not just alarming, but downright disappointing, given the dissenting viewpoints. Coming from a people who have sought political independence and seen the benefits thereof, the arguments being presented against acceptance of the CCJ strike us as pure poppycock.
The arguments of those CCJ naysayers start off on faulty premises and end likewise. In its brief history, this regional court has proven itself to be both competent in its decisions and constituted of independent-minded judges.
It was therefore pleasing to hear in recent days that Dominica has the all-clear to move away from the Privy Council and will join the CCJ. It would not be surprising if other nations within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States get on board with the regional court.
Politics – or rather general elections – will put a hold on any immediate move by Antigua or St Kitts-Nevis, where elections are due this year, and possibly St Vincent and the Grenadines, which could have a poll as well. There is no justifiable reason for either St Lucia or Grenada not making the move to the court as a matter of urgency.
But the CCJ will never seem to be exercising its full jurisdiction until it has two key regional states recognising it as their final court in all legal decisions. Both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are important to the future of this court.
The court should have gained both credence and favour with many who have expressed doubts on its ability to hand down sound judgments without fear of the politicians.
In a way, it can be seen as fortunate that the Shanique Myrie case was not decided in Barbados’ favour. Hopes of Jamaica coming on board would certainly have been dashed.
The stubborn resistance from some in Kingston – especially the Jamaica Labour Party – suggests a lack of self-confidence and a worrying leaning towards things extra-regional.
Equally disappointing has been the stand from Port of Spain, where governments – past and present – have failed to promote the benefits of the court. The idea of a referendum now to decide whether the CCJ is the best way forward is ludicrous.
When regional leaders meet later this month for their inter-sessional Heads of Government caucus, hopefully those still in doubt can be persuaded to get on board.
The CCJ needs full regional support and not unnecessary impediments.
 

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