Voters in Antigua-Barbuda and Grenada reject CCJ

4

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”.

print

4 COMMENTS

  1. The long awaited referendums in Grenada and in Antigua/Barbuda have come and gone. The people have spoken and their wishes have to be respected. The ruling governments in Grenada and Antigua have expressed disappointments, in not being able to obtain the required mandates from their countries to join the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction to hear appeals as the court of last resort in both civil and criminal matters. Obtaining the required two thirds majority to accept the proposals in the referendum would have allowed Grenada and Antigua to discontinue allowing appeals to, and to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in London with the CCJ.

    The run up to the referendum in both countries have seen a lot of partisan politics on both sides of the issue and the misinformation that were spread to the people. However, it is important to mention that the opposition voices in both countries were clarion and unmistakably when they mentioned

    1) There were issues in the local court systems that have to be fixed
    2) The referendum was too rush, more time was needed to educate the people
    3) constitutional amendments will have to be carried out first
    4) It has been reiterated that the majority of the Judges and Attorneys in the Region know each other (have the same training at UWI, boys club member ship) and this can and will affect the judicial system. Therefore, the system cannot be fair and is plagued with political interference.

    Granted that items 1,2 and 3 can be readily remedied. However, I am taken aback by the back and forth that such great legal minds cannot settle and come to a conclusion on item 3. Some are arguing that no constitutional amendments are necessary whereas some are saying it is necessary
    . The question is how can we address item 4. I am of the opinion this is a ludicrous argument. Let us forget the CCJ for the moment. The entire Regional Court System are mostly populated by jurists who were graduates from UWI, UK, US and Canada. And the majority of the judges and magistrates who are running the system appointment came through some political sway/link one way or another. OK, so this is the system we have in place and this is the system by which are laws are administered. Therefore, the same people we have running our present Regional legal system is the same people that will be promoted and will continue to run the CCJ. Therefore the argument in item 4 is mute. This is hogwash.

    Let us do what we need to do. Let us make the changes at the local levels-appoint competent magistrates and house the courts in adequate buildings. Make an all out effort to educate the people about the CCJ and that politicians who are not in government must not feed the people misinformation. The CCJ will be and can beneficial to all concern. We must remember a vast majority of the people will not have the required financial backing to take up a matter to the Privy Council. It may be possible to visit the CCJ in Trinidad.

  2. You are writing hogwash when you say that, “the same people we have running our present Regional legal system is the same people that will be promoted and will continue to run the CCJ. Therefore the argument in item 4 is mute.”

    This is hogwash because this means that if the lower courts are biased, then it is alright for the highest court to be biased too.

    You seem to be “mute” to the fact that your illogical position is not “moot” because the issue of perceived bias is now solved by having the impartial and distant Juridical Committee of the Privy Council as the final appellate court.

  3. The results are worse than they appear for the “yes” sides when account is also taken of the low registered voter turnout: 28 percent in Grenada and 34 percent in Antigua.

    When people don’t vote in elections or referenda, it is because of either apathy or satisfaction with the status quo.

    Taking into account voter turnout, only 12 percent of eligible voters in Grenada supported abandoning the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for the CCJ; in Antigua and Barbuda, this figure was a lowly 16 percent.

    Clearly, the people of both countries rejected the entreaties of their political and intellectual elites, a sure sign of distruct in the entire Caribbean political-legal hierarchy, a distrust that is well deserved.

    The question now is what these same elites will concoct, short of armed revolution and/or martial law, to make an end run around their Constiutions to effect the governance changes they so deary want.

  4. This is a dogmatic statement when you say,”Clearly, the people of both countries rejected the entreaties of their political and intellectual elites, a sure sign of distruct (sic) in the entire Caribbean political-legal hierarchy, a distrust that is well deserved.” How can you prove that is distrust, and why is it deserved? You continued by saying,” When people don’t vote in elections or in a referenda, it is because of either apathy or satisfaction with the status quo.” Sir, do you know there are numerous reasons why people do not vote in elections or in a referendum? It does not necessarily mean they are satisfied with the status quo or is apathy. Do you realize arrogance, ignorance or education or lack thereof have a great part to play? Do you also recognized or realized that the opposition politicians did a disservice to their people by spreading misinformation? It was selfishness on their part simply because they were not the ruling party and will do anything in their power to stop or sabotage the process.

    The question now is, what will these same opposition parties do if they gain power in the next year or so? When the shoe is on the other foot, what will be their position? Likewise the ruling parties if they were to be the opposition parties in the next two or so years and the CCJ issue comes up for another vote, what will be their position? My guess is they will find or come up with something and will definitely oppose it. It all boils down to politics and which party is the most influential. This is a pattern observed throughout the Caribbean. They all want to rule.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.