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Eyes off CCJ, Mr PM!

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

Eyes off CCJ, Mr PM!

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Oh no, Mr Prime Minister! On Sunday, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was lambasted by social activist and attorney David Comissiong, as well as political scientist and pollster Peter Wickham for his pledge to remove Barbados from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) if the Democratic Labour Party is returned to office in the May 24 poll.

Stuart, who was speaking at a political meeting at Eagle Hall on Saturday night, stressed he was not taking issue with the decisions coming from the Trinidad-based court, but was concerned about the attitudes of officials to Barbados. He said the anti-Barbados sentiment was witnessed by a public official.

“She was sitting around a table with one of the judges who sit in that court and the nasty, degrading things he said about Barbados upset her stomach. And when he enquired why she was saying nothing and she broke voice, and he realised he was saying these things in the presence of a Barbadian, he began to change his tune,” the Prime Minister told the crowd.

Stuart also said the island would not be going back to the British Privy Council.

However, Comissiong told the DAILY NATION Sunday: “If the Barbadian people were searching for a reason not to re-elect Mr Stuart and his Democratic Labour Party, Mr Stuart has given them such a reason.

“The fact is, Barbados needs to have at least one independent, outside court that is not under the control of the local political directoratethat the citizens can feel confident they can apply to that court and get justice that is independent of the political directorate,” he added.

The attorney said the interpretation of Stuart’s statement was that there would be “a totally internal or national judicial system that will make no provision for any outside court to have any say in the judicial decision-making process in Barbados”.

He said that was “very, very dangerous and unacceptable” in light of the fact that CARICOM and Commonwealth nationals were forced to take their fight to the CCJ to have their names placed on the electoral list, even after Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, acting as a first instance judge and then the Court of Appeal had ruled they were entitled to be registered.

“Even if some Barbadians found some fault with some of the comments made by some of the judges [of the CCJ], is that a reason for terminating the jurisdiction of the country’s highest appellate court?” Comissiong asked.

“There is no allegation that the court has been corrupt, that it has given corrupt or unjust decisions.”

He called it a desperate ploy and urged Barbadians to dismiss it with contempt.

Wickham was also highly critical of the plan, saying it was “not a good idea” from a policy perspective.

“I think there is also a benefit to be gained from having a court which is somewhat removed from Barbados. It gives you a slightly more objective perspective in what is going on.”

He added: “From a strategic political perspective, I also find it makes no sense. I think it is a very risky political manoeuvre on the eve of an election . . . . I sense that it does not sell well in the court of public opinion, especially among the slightly less committed voters,” he noted. (HLE)