As the people of Grenada and Antigua prepare to hold national referenda before year end to decide whether they will sign onto the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their final appellate court, Prime Minister Mia Mottley is assuring them they have nothing to fear in terms of political interference.
Speaking at the launch of promotional activities for the court in Grenada, Mottley, who served as chair of the CCJ preparatory committee between 2001 and 2005, told the audience at the Grenada Trade Centre “we understood from the start there would be fears among our legal fraternity that the court would be subjected to political interference, but we put measures in place to avoid that.
“First of all, we consulted bar associations, different groups and the Caribbean Development Bank and came up with a trust fund so that the court would have its own money and not have to depend on regional ministers of finance to fund its day-to-day operations. And once that fund was established, we set it at an amount which would enable it to live off the interest.”
Mottley also lauded the fact that the court has always had a highly competent panel of judges, who were chosen for their judicial talents rather than any political affiliations.
“No prime minister or president in the Caribbean has any say in the appointment of judges to the CCJ, so you Grenadians can rest assured that judges would not be politically motivated in their decision-making processes, but will have the necessary qualifications, experience and character to dispense justice without fear or favour,” she said.
The Prime Minister said although the CCJ was formally established in 2005, the idea was first mooted as far back as 1901 when “an editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper first suggested a break with the judicial committee of the Privy Council, stating that we needed an institution that understood what life in the Caribbean was all about”.
Mottley also stated that the court represented the second phase of independence for Caribbean nations. “In the first phase, we were so busy dealing with the basic necessities of food, housing, education and health, that we forgot to deal with the higher order issues that constituted a society, such as justice and forging our own identity. Yes, we have some difficult decisions to make, but once you reach 52 years like Barbados and 44 years like Grenada and you cannot make hard decisions, something is wrong in life.”
She commended the court for its “stellar” work in the region over the years, and encouraged the Grenada government to reassure the people that “it is about their life, it is about boundary disputes, about people who go to prison, people who were wrongfully arrested, about everything that happens in our day to day lives, and when you speak, the judges will understand everything you say, and if you want a court that is out of the reach of politics you can have that with the CCJ.”
Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda, are expected to hold national referenda on November 5 this year to decide whether they should sign onto the CCJ. (BT)