Stories by Dawne Parris in St John’s, Antigua
Barbados’ delay in paying Shanique Myrie will not push the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to insist that governments pay up by specified deadlines in the future.
CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron has insisted that while there are mechanisms within the structure of the court to compel countries to comply with its rulings, he wants to give governments the chance to show they can do the right thing.
He was responding to questions from Barbados TODAY about whether the Barbados Government took too long to hand over the more than $77,000 ordered by the CCJ on October 4, 2013.
Sir Dennis acknowledged that “every delay is too long” but said Myrie’s wait should not be taken out of context.
“We have a problem in the region, generally, with speed of performance of duties and I do not know whether in Barbados if you had a judgment from the High Court of Barbados against the government of Barbados that payment would have been any quicker. I doubt it,” he said yesterday evening, ahead of the opening ceremony of the 35th Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government Conference at the Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa.
“These issues depend on varying factors so, for example, the size of the amount to be paid would obviously have an effect on the time in which payment should be made. And there are other factors like that which I think need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“So I’m not quite certain that the existence of enforcement mechanisms, by itself, is the answer to the problem of ensuring that obligations are performed in a more speedy manner,” Sir Dennis added.
Pressed about whether enforcement mechanisms could be at least part of the solution, the CCJ president was insistent that he did not want to go that route right away.
He said all CARICOM governments had committed to obeying the orders of the court and being bound by its decisions and he would allow them to do that.
“Let them demonstrate that they mean what they say first, or not, as the case may be. In any event, I believe that within the structure of the court there are methods of compelling governments to pay but I don’t think it’s necessary to go there at this stage,” he said.
Myrie, the Jamaican woman who sued the Barbados Government after she was denied entry into the country when she arrived at the Grantley Adams International Airport on March 14, 2011, was paid on June 23.
She had twice gone to the Press – first in May this year and again last month – complaining that she was still waiting on the money which the CCJ ordered Barbados to hand over for breaching her right of entry as a CARICOM citizen.
The CCJ had ruled that Myrie be paid $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages, $2,240 in pecuniary damages, and that the Barbados Government also foot her legal fees.
Sir Dennis told Barbados TODAY he had absolutely no doubt that CARICOM countries had learned from that judgment and that its impact on free movement had spread right across the region.
He said he believed the CCJ was also becoming more respected by people in the region.
“We have already delivered as many judgments up to June this year as we did for the whole of last year so you’ll find that the volume of work has been steadily increasing and I take that as evidence that in the countries where the court is operating there is increasing confidence in the court,” he said.
“It also demonstrates that ordinary folk are benefiting from the ease of access to our court, improving the quality of justice within the countries that have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction.”
So far, Barbados, Guyana and Belize are the only CARICOM countries to sign on to both the original and appellate jurisdictions of the Trinidad-based CCJ.
The Dominican parliament yesterday approved legislation allowing for it to adopt the CCJ as its final court and Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told reporters this morning that the island would move swiftly to sever ties with the UK’s Privy Council, as early as this week.
“Once his Excellency the President assents to the Act it will come into full force and the Speaker should send the certificate to his Excellency the President today. So we expect it to take immediate effect,” he said before going into the first business session of the CARICOM meeting at the Sandals Grande Antigua Resort.
“We believe this is a great day, not only for Dominica but the Caribbean, as yet another country has taken the decision to finally recognize the CCJ as its final court.”