CCJ a move towards full independence, says Dominica minister

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ROSEAU, Dominica — Ian Douglas, minister for legal affairs has declared that Dominica is more than ready to have the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court.

Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit announced in January that Dominica had received no objection from the government of the United Kingdom to move away from the British Privy Council and recognize the CCJ as its final appellate court.

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Minister for Legal Affairs Ian Douglas

Douglas’s statement comes as the main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has openly voiced non-support for the CCJ.

Thompson Fontaine, a UWP election candidate stated recently, “As a party we don’t believe that Dominica is ready for this move. We don’t believe it should have been done. There are still a lot of questions about the judiciary and the ability of our own people to preside over themselves.”

But Douglas has disagreed and has characterized the UWP’s statements as immature, appalling, shocking and “colonialistic”. He views the CCJ as the final step towards total independence.

The minister is confident in the ability of Caribbean jurists to deliver sound judgements.

“These are men of distinction who have distinguished themselves not only in the legal profession but have distinguished themselves intellectually not only in the Caribbean but around the world.

“I have utmost confidence in the judges; I mean if you look at the decisions that have come from the Court of Justice they can stand the test of time and stand any legal scrutiny anywhere around the world,” Douglas stated.

The legal affairs minister has further described the UWP’s position as politically inept and said the opposition was unprepared to move Dominica forward.

Douglas believes that Dominica’s move to have the CCJ as its final appellate court is one of maturity, forward thinking and realistic.

History was made on Monday, February 17, 2014 when a panel of judges from the CCJ held sittings in Guyana. While the CCJ is recognized in its original jurisdiction, which interprets and applies the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas in all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, only Guyana, Belize and Barbados recognize the court in its appellate jurisdiction.

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CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque

Meanwhile, in Guyana, secretary-general of CARICOM, Irwin LaRocque, has once again called for member states to make the CCJ the final court of appeal for the region.

Speaking to the full court at a special sitting in honour of Madam Justice Desiree Bernard, who is retiring from the CCJ, the secretary-general said that no better tribute could be paid to Bernard than for all the member states of CARICOM to accede to the court in both its original and appellate jurisdictions.

LaRocque told the court sitting at the Guyana International Conference Centre just outside Georgetown that the CCJ had proved its worth.

“There can be no doubt of the court’s ability to render well thought out and reasoned judgements that can stand the scrutiny of its most ardent detractors,” he added.

“The CCJ is an integral edifice in the regional architecture as designed within the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. But arguably, even more important, the court in both its jurisdictions represents the essence of our independence and sovereignty and is essential to the progress of the integration movement,” the secretary-general said.

He praised Bernard for her intellectual depth which, he said, reflected the strength of the judicial competence of the Caribbean Court of Justice. He noted that she had received the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women, for her work which “had enriched the legal and social fabric of the Community.”

La Rocque was one of several speakers at the special sitting presided over by the president of the CCJ, Sir Dennis Byron, who was assisted by the full complement of judges of the court. Bernard is one of the inaugural judges of the CCJ and its first and only female member thus far.

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