St Lucia to table legislation to make CCJ final court

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The St Lucia government says it will soon table legislation that will allow for the island to make the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) its final court, replacing the London-based Privy Council.

Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony said that St Lucia has a provision in its Constitution that is identical to a provision of the Constitution of Dominica, which used that measure to join the CCJ that was inaugurated in 2005.

"St Lucia has an identical provision but it makes reference to a section in the constitution which we believed was wrong. In other words there is an error in the section."

Anthony said that St Lucia has a law that allows the Attorney General to refer questions to the Court of Appeal for an advisory opinion in constitutional matters.

"I think we are the only country in the Caribbean with that law and it is a very useful devise. So we approached the Court of Appeal and asked them for a determination as to whether there was; they agreed with the government there was an error.

"By a 2-1 majority, the Court of Appeal agreed there was an error and ...I have read the dissenting judgement and I can't agree with it not because we are championing the cause but purely on the reasoning contained in that dissenting judgement," said Anthony, a former law lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

He said armed with the opinion from the court he has formally written to the British government "advising...that the government of St Lucia wishes to delink from the Privy Council in pursuant of the requirements of that section".

"Now what will happen next, I anticipate that when we go to Parliament with the legislation to seek to delink St Lucia from the Privy Council, the opposition or other elements who feel wedded to the Privy Council for all kinds of reasons for which I will not explore...will likely want to take the matter to the court again."

Prime Minister Anthony said while he has no objection or problem with the move by the opposition, his administration would go ahead and table the legislation.

"Our Constitution requires a 90-day period between laying and the debate and once the constitutional process is completed meaning that the legislation has gained the approval of Parliament for which we must have a two-third majority, then I would expect that the people who are opposed to the delinking will want to approach the court.

"We don't have no problem with that, it will be interesting to get the Privy Council to pronounce on the findings of the Court of Appeal whose decision is not binding, it is only persuasive because it is nothing more than an advisory opinion.

"So that's where we are and I assume the next few months will be interesting in that regard," Anthony said.

In March this year, Dominica became the first member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to join the CCJ in both its original and appellate jurisdictions.

Dominica joined Barbados, Belize and Guyana that have signed on to both the appellate and original jurisdictions of the CCJ that also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chagauaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.

Most of the other Caribbean countries are signatories to the original jurisdiction.

Sir Dennis Byron, the second Caribbean national to head the Trinidad-based Caribbean court, said he is certain that within a year, not only will Jamaica be added to the full membership of the court, but also Trinidad and Tobago and the other islands in the sub-regional OECS.

"All the countries have agreed to be on board because when they signed the treaty establishing the court they entered into that arrangement and they went further than that, they have all put money to fund the operation of the court so they are fully on board in that respect.

"What they have not done is abolish appeals to the Privy Council. That is one thing that has not been done and as far as my crystal ball suggests that within the next year or two the countries will be on board," he said as the court celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

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