Outspoken Government minister, Donville Inniss, is making a strong case that CARICOM countries which do not use the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their final court of appeal, should not have a sitting representative on the Trinidad-headquartered court.
Inniss told Barbados TODAY that while he supported regional integration through CARICOM, he was not happy with the way many regional institutions were functioning and political leaders had to take the blame for this state of affairs.
Inniss, who last February expressed disappointment during a parliamentary debate that no Barbadian was hired to sit as a judge on the CCJ, said his views were “perhaps even stronger” now given the recent decision by some OECS countries to impose a 70 per cent import tax on Barbadian goods entering their markets.
“I am tired and fed up of the games and a lot of the political shenanigans that go on around the place, the lot of meetings they have around the place that are becoming useless and meaningless and irrelevant to the people in the region,” said the island’s Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Business Development.
“Let me make it abundantly clear. I believe that we must come together in the region but it can’t be one foot in and one foot out. We are either all in it together or we are out of it. I am a firm believer in regional integration and the power that comes with being united. I blame the political leaders throughout the region . . . The sooner we really and genuinely come together and stop this wishy-washy public platitude scenarios, the better it will be for this region,” he contended.
Pointing out that another Trinidadian had recently been appointed to sit on the CCJ, Inniss expressed disappointment that there has not been “one whimper from anybody in this country about it”. “We have a lot of so-called intellectuals in this country who, to my mind, are very lazy, unpatriotic and selfish,” he charged.
Singling out Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago for not being able to “see it fit” to have the CCJ as their final court of appeal, Inniss said: “I don’t think we are serious in this region”.
He cried “shame on places like St Kitts” for “running to the Privy Council in London” to solve their recent boundaries issue ahead of their general elections. The London-based court, which is the final court of appeal for St Kitts and Nevis, made a ruling allowing use of existing boundaries for the February 16 elections.
The case was brought by the then opposition Team Unity coalition after the former Labour government attempted at the last minute to introduce new boundaries. Team Unity subsequently won the election and is the country’s new government.
“They could not take a one-hour flight down to Trinidad to the CCJ, which is headed by a Kittitian, to resolve their issues. The CCJ may have very well come to the same position,” lamented Inniss.
He emphasized that the point at issue was not so much about having a Barbadian represented on the CCJ, but more about the rest of the region making the CCJ their final court of appeal.
“It tells me that those who have not come on board have no faith in the system. It has reached a point in my mind that those countries that have not signed on to the CCJ as a final court of appeal should not have any of their citizens serving on the CCJ. If that is what it takes to have a serious debate and resolution, so be it,” Inniss said.