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EDITORIAL: A welcome signature for the CCJ

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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ALL THOSE in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) who favour having the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as this region’s final appellate institution, will undoubtedly be heartened by last week’s public call from Trinidad and Tobago’s Chief Justice Ivor Arthie to abolish the Privy Council in favour of the CCJ.
That commendable stand, quite unique for a sitting Chief Justice whose own country is yet to access the CCJ as the court of last resort, was made by Archie at the opening of that country’s new session of the 2010/2011 law term. 
Even those who would welcome his open support for Trinidad and Tobago to part company with the Privy Council, may well ask why Archie’s call now, knowing that he has been serving as Chief Justice since January 24, 2008, and that the new government in Port-of-Spain is just some four months old?
At 49, the youngest Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, and the ninth since political independence came 48 years ago, Archie would be quite aware of lingering reservations, to say it mildly, within both major parties in his jurisdiction about abolishing access to the Privy Council in favour of the CCJ
Whatever the factor, or factors, that may have influenced him to go public at this time in favour of the CCJ, it is of significance that Archie’s call came against the backdrop of a recent public warning by five eminent citizens of CARICOM about rumblings over the level of public funds being spent to have the CCJ headquartered in Port-of-Spain.
The five eminent persons, all recipients of CARICOM’S highest honour – Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) – had made clear their own understanding that the grumblings, via the media, had nothing to do with the new PPG administration of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Nevertheless, among the more passionate supporters of the CCJ are those who felt that the parliamentary debate on the PPG’s 2010/2011 budget would be a good occasion to signal a positive message in support of the CCJ and reaffirm Port-of-Spain as its operational base. But the debate ended last week with nothing new said on the CCJ.
Ironically, while governments in major CARICOM states, like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, continue to equivocate on abolition of the Privy Council, the Law Lords in England have themselves been signalling why independent nations of the Commonwealth should show more faith in their local judges and courts.
Chief Justice Archie would have been fully aware of the expressed views of eminent British legal luminaries for independent states delinking themselves from the Privy Council as their final court.
It would, therefore, have been quite useful had the Chief Justice gone public earlier with his own support for the CCJ when the previous government in Port-of-Spain appeared reluctant to advance arrangements for abolition of the Privy Council.
However, as the saying goes, it’s better late than never. And this is a good example. Chief Justice Archie has done well in placing his signature in support of the CCJ.