Big support for OECS in the CCJ
THE LATEST distinguished voice in support of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is that of Dominica’s President Dr Nicholas Liverpool, a former long-serving law lecturer of the University of the West Indies and noted advocate of the development of Caribbean jurisprudence.
What makes his intervention more significant at this time when two of CARICOM’s major partners – Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica – are still dancing around parting company with the Privy Council as their final appeal court, is President Liverpool’s suggestion that perhaps all of the independent member countries of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) should move collectively in accessing the CCJ as their final appellate institution.
His appeal for a united OECS approach to sever ties with the Privy Council (as first done by Barbados and Guyana, and later Belize) came on Tuesday while addressing the ceremonial opening of Dominica’s new parliamentary term.
A very pertinent reminder has come from Dr Liverpool for the Dominica parliament and, by extension, the other independent OECS countries. This sub-region of CARICOM, he has warned, could be faced with “a very untimely state of affairs if all the independent countries of the OECS do not accede to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ as a group . . .”.
The reason? Well, Dominica, like other independent countries of the OECS, belongs to a common court system with a supreme court consisting of a court of appeal headquartered in St Lucia, and related high courts located in all participating member countries.
Therefore, in the reasoning of the well known Caribbean jurist, “it could be most undesirable to have some states in this unified court system taking their appeals to the Privy Council while others accede to the jurisdiction of the CCJ . . .”.
The solution, according to President Liverpool, is for Dominica and its OECS partners to “entrench” the CCJ in their respective constitutions at the same level to that of the subregion’s supreme court system.
That may also be a timely hint thrown out for the benefit of those in the Dominica parliament keen to speed up the process for ending the colonial relationship with the Privy Council in favour of the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.
Meanwhile, as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago continue to agonize over their respective political/constitutional approaches in saying “goodbye” to the Privy Council, a surprising unofficial signal has come from informed sources in Port of Spain.
The “signal” or political straw in the wind points to the likelihood of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar initiating constitutional procedures to part with the Privy Council and access the CCJ as Trinidad and Tobago’s court of last resort. Join me in keeping watch.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org