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Monday 27 May 2019
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Letters to the Editor

Give litigants a time-limited option

CCJ or the Privy Council?

THE EDITOR: Having read the article by David Comissiong in the Express of October 24, in which he urged a favourable “yes” response in the then forthcoming referendum in Grenada (as well as in the same-day AntiguaBarbuda referendum) on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), I told myself: “This is it,” for I did not anticipate that any informed reader would have seen it fit to vote “no,” given the comprehensive, factual and analytical treatment meted out by Comissiong, who was described as “an attorney-at-law” and “son of the Caribbean Community (Barbados),” depicting that while he himself was not Grenadian by birth, he was addressing citizens of Grenada – the island of his father’s birth, whom he approvingly described as his hero.

My heart bleeds for the many who, like me, have been unadulterated supporters of the CCJ as being the final court of appeal for constituent members of Caricom. The question therefore arises: What went wrong?

Do we, as Caribbean people, have a sense of our history? Do we have an appreciation of the indigenous heritage to which many can lay claim? Do we have a feeling of national pride? Have we, according to Sir Ronald Sanders in an article in the Express of November 23, now lost, with the CCJ (debacle), “our identity and dignity?” – a situation which is underscored by the fact that the Privy Council itself has been beckoning us to cut the string that binds us to it?

Have we lost the implications and consequences of referendum, Bustamante and the West Indies Federation?

I need not reiterate here the pros and cons of access to the Privy Council, one of the compelling arguments against being the matter of cost of access – a reality which precludes such access to the “average” citizen, and thus having within it a built-in travesty in the administration of justice.

It would be clear that this writer is not in support of the use of referendum as a vehicle for determining matters of complex high national import (vide the Brexit controversy and its aftermath). By all means use referendums for local not-so-complex issues. Some will of course term this “elitist” and a denial of “the popular will,” however defined and for which I offer no apology.

Now what of TT and those members of Caricom which have, thus far, been accessing the CCJ in its original jurisdiction only? Here I humbly suggest, as a priority, the mounting of a sustained educational and information programme – one of the “ingredients” which have been noticeably missing from the CCJ armoury.

Finally, in terms of the way forward, my suggestion is that, given the nature of our societies and the issues highlighted herein, the relevant laws should be amended by having a “hybrid” jurisdiction which allows litigants (especially those of low means), of their own free will and accord, to determine their avenue of preference – the Privy Council or the CCJ – such “hybrid arrangement” lasting for a period of, say, seven-ten years and subject to review.


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