Jamaica has US$27-million question to answer — CCJ president
SAUNDERS... Jamaica and its judicial officers have benefited from and invested time and resources in the pursuit of the goals of the CCJ

CARIBBEAN Court of Justice (CCJ) President Justice Adrian Saunders says the Government and people of Jamaica must justify why, after investing heavily in the operations and management of the court, the country is yet to make the entity its final appeal tribunal.

Justice Saunders, who was the speaker at a special guest lecture and dinner to mark the 60th anniversary of the court last Wednesday evening, was at pains to point out that Jamaica paid approximately US$27 million to help capitalise the CCJ Trust Fund that was created to insulate the court and its judges from political interference, and was one of the 10 Caricom member states to sign the agreement establishing the CCJ.

"Jamaica and its judicial officers have benefited from and invested time and resources in the pursuit of the goals of the CCJ, but even so, and especially considering the US$27 million put into the Trust Fund by this country, the nagging questions that obviously arise are, has Jamaica realised a full return on all of that investment?" Justice Saunders queried.

According to the CCJ president, Jamaicans, in their individual capacities, have made enormous contributions to the operation and management of the court. He further pointed out that behind host country Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica has the largest complement of staff currently working at the CCJ, with more Jamaicans serving on the commission than nationals of other countries, in addition to a Jamaican jurist serving on the bench in that court.

"The CCJ is and always has been just as much Jamaica's court as it is the court of other Caricom states. What should such a return look like? What is the opportunity cost of failing to realise that full return? Are there objective impediments to such realisations? If so, what are they? Ultimately it is the Government and people of Jamaica that must answer these questions. Persons like myself must respect the answers. Still, as president of the court, I believe I'm in a good position, respectfully, to offer a view — for what that view is worth," the CCJ head said.

He said those questions have a special resonance in relation to the appellate jurisdiction of the court and in relation to the role of final appellate court.

While the CCJ, in its original jurisdiction, is the court of the 15-member Caricom bloc, only four countries have signed on to its appellate jurisdiction. They are Barbados, Guyana, Belize, and Dominica, which joined in March 2015.

Said Justice Saunders, "In our original jurisdiction where we interpret and apply the Caricom Treaty, a number of Jamaicans have accessed the court, both as counsel and as litigants. We do recall that it was Jamaican Shanique Myrie who had the courage to file a case seeking to hold Caribbean governments to account for the obligations they voluntarily undertook regarding the CSME. Jamaica does not, however, send its final appeals to the CCJ and I see that, rightly, there is a growing debate in the press about that matter."

In noting that there was a low number of cases from Jamaica heading to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London for settlement, Justice Saunders said the view that the Privy Council is free and therefore a good reason for continuing its use is "inaccurate". According to Justice Saunders, the reason behind the paucity of Jamaican cases reaching London has to do with the "crippling expense".

The CCJ president, noting that no other Commonwealth country with the population and land area the size of Jamaica sends their appeal to London, pointed out that a final court should be accessible to all and not just to those who have means.

Alicia Dunkley-Willis

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