Regardless of who stays or who leaves, Barbados will remain committed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), says Attorney General Dale Marshall, following Tuesday’s rejection of the regional court by Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.
In a Barbados TODAY interview hours after the historic referenda, Marshall described it as “a sad day for the region”.
In Grenada, the “No” vote secured 12,133 as compared to 9,846 for those supporting the CCJ, while in Antigua and Barbuda 9,234, voted “no” while 8,509 wanted the CCJ.
For Grenadians it was the second time in a two-year period.
“…I think it’s a sad day for the whole idea of CARICOM with organs that are designed by its people to service its people’s needs,” said Marshall, reacting to the decision of both countries to retain the London-based Privy Council over the regionally grounded CCJ as their highest court of appeal.
Marshall said the vote revealed how some Caribbean people still view themselves and their ability to operate independently.
The frustrated attorney said he was “dismayed that at this point in our history, Caribbean people could have any doubt as to the ability of their own to make a well-reasoned and sensible decision on their affairs.”
Marshall said the result held no implications for the Barbados’ future in the regional court.
“I have seen the CCJ at work. Barbados has had many appeals going to the CCJ. The decisions, the quality of the decisions; the quality of the jurisprudence is first class.
“Having as much confidence as I do in the talent of our regional final appellate body, I am more than disappointed that the people of those two territories don’t have that same confidence,” he said.
More baffling to the AG is the fact the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) shares a court of appeal, overseen by Judges from across the Eastern Caribbean.
President of the Barbados Bar Association, Liesel Weekes was just as disappointed with the low voter turnout as she was with the result.
“It suggests to me that the average Antiguan and Barbudan and the average Grenadian doesn’t see this as an issue which affects them. But ultimately it does [affect them] and I’m not certain what informed the decision to stay away [from the polling stations]… and to vote against the CCJ.”
She also said it was risky for independent countries to remain at the mercy of the Privy Council in England.
“Today or tomorrow the Privy Council says okay, we’re not hearing any other matters from the Commonwealth Caribbean. That’s it.”
Weekes also responded to concerns about political interference by regional politicians into the affairs of the court, noting an extremely tedious process was involved in the appointment of key functionaries like Judges and that even financing of the court was extremely complex.
At the UWI Cave Hill Campus, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law, Westmin James called for greater education of the masses on important matters.
He argued Caribbean people often vote “against their best interest” if they do not understand how the changes can benefit them.
“I think they need to be educated on how it has worked for those countries which have signed onto the appellate jurisdiction,” he said adding that political interference was non-existent.
James also argued that since signing onto the CCJ, citizens from Barbados, Dominica, Belize have experienced greater access to justice, while the cost of justice has become more affordable.
“The Privy Council does not hear most cases from the Caribbean unless it’s a specific type of case; and even if you have lawyers that are not going to charge you, the cost is tremendous,” said James.
Retired veteran politician Hamilton Lashley stated that in his opinion the electorate in Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda were “totally wrong”, though he respected their decision.
“You are saying to me that you have more confidence in the British judicial system, in a foreign land, with a bunch of ball headed white people.
It is totally appalling to me to think that in 2018 that we in the Caribbean could believe that the persons in Britain have higher judicial intelligence in the Caribbean. That vote is an insult to us as Caribbean people.”
In his impassioned response, Lashley cautioned that the result uncovered an “identity crisis” still affecting Caribbean people and bore negative implications for the future of regional integration. [email protected]