Our Readers' Opinions
July 15, 2016
Should CCJ headquarters be moved from Trinidad?

Editor: Ten years after inauguration, only four countries, Guyana, Barba­dos, Belize and recently Dominica, have joined the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), and two countries — Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda have initiated steps to go on board. It is disappointing that the two big countries in the region, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, which were in the forefront of the establishment of the regional court, are still to join.{{more}}

I recall more than 25 years ago, the Attorneys General of Jamaica, Oswald Harding, and Trinbago’s Selwyn Richardson (now deceased) were jetting around the region with Caricom legal consultant, Brynn Pollard, whipping up support for Caricom member states to be involved in the court. A few years later Basdeo Panday, after he became Prime Minister of the twin island republic, pushed heavily for the court and as a result, Port of Spain was chosen as the headquarters.

It is now amazing and baffling that after so many years, they have not yet come aboard. Former prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said more than three years ago that she was prepared to go half way for appeals, but this did not materialize and the UNC is now out of government. However, I seem to recall that Keith Rowley, when he was in the Opposition, questioned Kamla why only go half way. This is an indication that he was willing to abolish all appeals. Now that he is in government I would expect he will initiate steps to cut ties with the Privy Council. However I gather there is a change of heart by the opposition UNC and they will not support the Court. If they don’t, the twin island republic will be unable to join because of constitutional restraints.

It seems as if nothing is surprising in politics. The JLP, under the leadership of Edward Seaga, was hammering for the Court in 1989, but changed its position after a decade when it regained power. There is still a division on the issue between the two main political parties in Jamaica.

A large number of Trinidadians are employed by the CCJ, but Trinidad and Tobago seems not to have any use for the Court, not even in its original jurisdiction to interpret treaties and constitutional issues, because in its 10 years only one such such issue was taken to that Court.

This is unbelievable, so much so, that a Caribbean diplomat indicated to me that a campaign should be launched to remove the Court from Port of Spain, This, to my mind, would be a costly exercise and will never materialize.

The CCJ was inaugurated on April 16, 2005. The birth of the CCJ came after long and arduous planning, beginning in March 1970. The first case was heard by the CCJ in August 2005.

Oscar Ramjeet