By Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The electorates in both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda voted against the proposal to have the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their highest appellate court in separate referenda held on Tuesday.
In both countries, the turnout of voters was low and in neither case gave the proposals more than 50 percent approval, let alone the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendment.
In Grenada, of 21,979 ballots cast, just 9,846 persons (44 percent) voted to adopt the CCJ as the final court of appeal in a second such unsuccessful poll within a two-year period.
In Antigua and Barbuda, the margin was a little closer, with 8,509 votes (48 percent) in favour of the adoption of the CCJ out of a total of 17,743 ballots cast.
President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders, said, “While the news is not what we hoped for, we respect the people of both nations and their decision.”
Prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, in expressing his disappointment at the outcome, said, “I accept the result of the referendum. We knew that getting 67 percent of the votes was an extremely daunting task, practically unachievable without the support of the main opposition party.”
Prime minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell, also indicated his disappointment but acceptance of the results.
“I am disappointed but I am in total acceptance of the results. The people have voted based on what they wished to see. As a serious democrat it [the result] has been accepted. I am not happy with it but that has always been my position when results of elections are given,” Mitchell said.
The CCJ was established in 2003 and has two jurisdictions: an original jurisdiction and an appellate jurisdiction.
In its original jurisdiction, the CCJ interprets and applies the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and is an international court with compulsory and exclusive jurisdiction in respect of the interpretation of the treaty.
In its appellate jurisdiction, the CCJ hears appeals as the court of last resort in both civil and criminal matters from those CARICOM member states that no longer allow appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London. Currently, Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have replaced the JCPC’s appellate jurisdiction with that of the CCJ.
The CCJ president emphasised that “these results will not, of course, deter us from serving with distinction those nations that currently send their final appeals to us. As well, the court will also continue to process and hear applications from all CARICOM states, and from CARICOM itself, in our original jurisdiction, and our justice reform work in the region will also continue”.