Last week the Caribbean Court of Justice announced that in about two months, on October 4, to be precise, it will deliver its judgement in the Shanique Myrie case. We anticipate that it will be a red-letter day for Caribbean integration, regional jurisprudence and for the CCJ itself.
If nothing else, it should tell those who administer the delivery of justice in this country that if the CCJ can hear such a complex matter so soon after it was filed, complete all the procedures across regional borders and render a judgement so quickly, there is really no reason why ordinary Barbadians continue to journey to the Great Beyond and have never heard the outcome of matters that were important to them. But that is not the thrust of our discussion.
We suspect that having announced a date for the delivery, the justices of the CCJ have all but completed their deliberations and therefore it is hardly likely that any reasonable person could argue we are trying to influence the outcome. So we press ahead!
To be quite frank, even with all its financial woes we are not really bothered if the CCJ awards Myrie the approximate $1 million she is seeking in damages, or if they determine that based on the case presented she should get twice that amount.
What we wish for is that the court will take on an “activist” role and offer some sweeping interpretations of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas as it relates to intra-regional travel. We wish this because it will put new pressure on those who jet off to one of our regional capital twice annually for the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference and then their Inter-Sessional conference and apparently engage in a lot of fruitless talks.
No Caribbean islander, we believe, would wish for an institution that diminishes the sovereignty of his or her home country, but it is clear that if we are to progress as a people many of the artificial barriers that we have set up against each other must be dismantled. And apparently our political leaders are unwilling to, or incapable of doing what is necessary.
Each nation has a duty to protect its landscape and its people, and this is a reasonable expectation of each nation of citizens, particularly when each country has its own characteristic differences. But when law enforcement personnel in any one country are asked to enforce a border rule, all things being equal, it should equate with similar rules in all other regional jurisdictions.
The Myrie case relates to an alleged body cavity search and the denial of entry into Barbados when she believes she was qualified to so enter. The court will decide if they believed such a search occurred and if under the circumstances she should have been denied entry, but more importantly we hope, governments and their border officials will after October 4 know what standards they will be held to, and millions of travellers will know they have an avenue for redress when they believe they have been unfairly or unjustly treated.
We hope too that while the Myrie case relates to immigration, it will offer some hints of what will happen when individuals or corporate entities believe they are being subjected to unfair trade practices — particularly when they drag on for long periods with the brand-name-drink-sipping leaders apparently unable to find resolution.
We accept that the CCJ cannot be a panacea for the resolution of every nature of dispute that has afflicted the region for the past half century, but the knowledge among the region’s people that there is an avenue for redress that works should go a long way in minimising future clashes.
The CCJ has an opportunity in the Shanique Myrie case, with the region and the world watching, to send a message that can empower our citizens like never before, certainly unlike anything that would have occurred during the years of the British Privy Council, and we look forward to the dawn of that new day.
So onward to October 4!