EDITORIAL: T&T cool on access route to the CCJ
There is no mention of it in the ten-page conference communiqué. But confirmation has come from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the just-concluded 33rd CARICOM Summit in St Lucia did not embrace Trinidad and Tobago’s request for endorsement of partial access to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on criminal cases while remaining linked to the Privy Council on all other legal matters.
The surprising absence of any reference in the communiqué to this political issue of region-wide interest may have to do with the culture or modalities of functioning of the Heads of Government Conference as the major organ of CARICOM.
Seemingly, therefore, having cast the issue in the mould of “exchange of views”, the Heads did not consider it necessary to record their evident lack of consensus to approve Trinidad and Tobago’s request that necessitates an amendment to the Revised CARICOM Treaty.
From the very outset there was doubt for success over Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar’s initiative to seek endorsement from CARICOM to facilitate her government’s initial two-phase approach to access the CCJ’s jurisdiction pending a complete parting of the old colonial relationship with the Privy Council.
Since the current three countries that have the CCJ as their court of last resort – Barbados, Guyana and Belize – had to terminate their relations with the Privy Council, and Jamaica is currently in the process of moving to have the regional court as its final appellate institution, majority support for the Trinidad and Tobago government’s request was the promising alternative.
But there lies the challenging problem – majority support cannot suffice when the relevant amendment to the CARICOM Treaty requires unanimity among participating member states.
In the end, the culture of “consensus”, embedded in CARICOM over the now 39 years of the regional economic integration movement, triumphed over earlier signalled majority support.
This has left the government in Port of Spain to do its rethinking on the way forward on the CCJ to which Trinidad and Tobago is a major financial contributor. That way forward, along which Jamaica is planning to travel, is to cut all ties with the Privy Council and access the jurisdiction of the regional court as its final appellate institution.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar has, to her credit, taken in good spirit the outcome of the exchange of views on the modalities of full access to the CCJ.
Without revealing a trace of bitterness, she has made clear her commitment to the tradition of “consensus” by which CARICOM Heads of Government normally make treaty-based decisions.