By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is not happy with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) based in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, as the country’s final court of appeal heading into the general election on May 28, 2018.
“Once the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is returned to office, Barbados will be withdrawing from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final Court of Appeal,” Stuart said.
“I am not going to have Barbados disrespected by politicians wearing robes. I don’t subscribe to disrespect and I think that the attitude coming from Port of Spain leaves much to be desired in terms of how it is treating Barbados. And I am not going to have a situation where other countries in the Caribbean keep a safe, safe distance from that Court while Barbados supports it and Barbadians are treated with the kind of disrespect that I see,” he continued.
The prime minister said, however, that Barbados would not be going back to the Privy Council, but did not offer an alternative to the CCJ.
Barbados joined the CCJ in 2004, followed by Guyana, Belize and Dominica, thus severing ties with the Privy Council in London.
Stuart has expressed prior reservations to former CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron that “that judgements coming out of the CCJ were not reflecting positively on Barbados”.
Jamaican Shanique Myrie was awarded $75,000 by the CCJ in compensation for her being refused entry into Barbados in 2011 and related mistreatment by immigration officials.
Earlier this month, the CCJ ordered chief electoral officer, Angela Sealy, to include a St Lucian, Professor Eddy Ventose, on the register of voters for the Barbados elections, or face contempt of court proceedings, which could result in imprisonment and/or fines.
Stuart is also aggrieved that Jamaica kept “a safe distance”, as did Trinidad and Tobago, even though the headquarters were there and the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada decided by referenda to stay with the Privy Council. Other Caribbean nations have also opted not to join.
Following the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party’s return to government, a referendum is planned on replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the CCJ.
According to Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the US, Sir Ronald Sanders, “The creation of the CCJ is arguably the single most important event in the history of the English-speaking Caribbean since the establishment of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) by treaty in 1973.”
Dr Kenny Anthony, former prime minister of St Lucia and a former legal counsel to the CARICOM Secretariat, described the CCJ as “a leap into enlightenment” as “one of the major successes of (CARICOM’s) collective governance,” adding that the CCJ “has widened and enlarged the bundle of rights of the citizens of the Caribbean Community.”
Saint Lucia has, however, been tardy in moving towards the CCJ, lacking a two-thirds majority in either government in past elections. A referendum is the alternative, albeit that other political issues could clog the debate and compromise the outcome.
Furthermore, the legal fraternity in Saint Lucia is hardly unanimous on the issue.
“Because of the smallness of our countries the appointment of those judges on the CCJ are done by the prime ministers of the region.
“Now when you have a matter either against a prime minister or a state and the judge who or judges who may be presided over would have knowledge of those prime ministers or of the people, who are responsible for the appointment then invariably that judgment can be clouded and justice may not be dispensed in an objective fashion.
“Unlike the Privy Council that would dispense justice strictly from a theoretical standpoint where knowledge of the parties involved in the matter would be of no consequence to them,” one local attorney observed.