Caribbean jurisdictions yet to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) their final appellate body, need to “stop pretending to be independent” and cut the umbilical cord with the United Kingdom.
This strong admonition today from Barbados’ Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, who contended that the reluctance of some countries to leave the London-based Privy Council was indicative of a lack of confidence in their own capabilities.
“With regard to the attitude of other Caribbean countries towards the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice, the metaphor that comes to my mind is one of children born but still tied to their mother.
“In a sense the failure of other Caribbean countries to accede to the appellate jurisdiction is akin to giving birth to a child who continues to grow and continues to pretend to be independent, but still tied to his mother,” Sir Marston said while addressing a special court sitting this morning to mark the elevation of Justice Adrian Saunders to the presidency of the CCJ.
Noting that the new president received his legal training at homegrown institutions, Sir Marston argued that the time had come for Caribbean people to repose confidence in their own organizations.
“My reason for feeling pride in the elevation of Adrian Saunders is that no one can say that he was trained in England. He is a trained Caribbean lawyer from the University of the West Indies and the Council of Legal Education. I want to believe the fact that our president was trained in an autochthonous institution will finally convince our Caribbean people that we are people of quality. We don’t need to be tied to England, and in many ways it is our cultural differences that justify the court,” the Chief Justice said.
Since the CCJ was established in 2005, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction of the court which is based in Trinidad, an irony that was not lost on Trinidad and Tobago’s chief justice Ivor Archie, who said today he was embarrassed by this reality.
Archie also lamented the length of time it was taking other jurisdictions to get on board, suggesting that current trends indicated that it would take another 40 years before the region recognizes a single court of last resorts.
“It is an abiding irony, to my mind a continual embarrassment, that the seat of the court is in Trinidad and Tobago and we do not yet access the appellate jurisdiction . . . . Mathematically, a new state accedes to appellate jurisdiction every five years and considering that there are 12 signatories to the agreement to establishing the CCJ one must now wonder just how many decades it would take before all of us are fully on board if we continue as we have begun,” he said.
Grenada is expected to hold a referendum in November to determine whether it will join the CCJ, while St Vincent and the Grenadines, the birth place of the new CCJ president, failed to get the mandate to join from its electorate last year. Despite not signing on to in its appellate jurisdiction, countries such as Jamaica have benefited from its landmark rulings in its original jurisdiction which covers disputes arising from the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy. Most notable among these was the Myrie case, in which Jamaican Shanique Myrie was awarded damages in the sum of US$38,000 after she filed a lawsuit claiming she was subjected to a dehumanizing cavity search by a female immigration officer at Grantley Adams International Airport, locked in a filthy room overnight and deported to Jamaica in March 2011.