Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley promised full support required by the People’s Partnership Government to abolish criminal appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) and adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal.
Rowley said that minutes after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced in Parliament yesterday the Government’s decision. He said: “We anxiously look forward to the legislation, which will get our fullest support. “It’s a classic case of half-a-loaf being better than no bread,” Rowley said in an interview with reporters at the Parliament building on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
He was speaking in the wake of the Government’s decision to abolish criminal appeals to the Privy Council but not civil matters. He said while the Opposition People’s National Movement was happy with the development it would have preferred “to make a clean break of it (Privy Council).”
He said he did not agree with the Government’s position that civil appeals should be retained because of the need for commercial-related purposes. He added: “If the Caribbean Court of Justice is good enough to handle criminal matters, we are of the view that we are equally competent to handle civil matters.”
He said the former rejection of acceptance of the CCJ by the UNC was not based on caution but its loss of power after the general election in 2001. “It means that we are making some progress but we are not there yet. We will prefer a complete removal from the Privy Council,” Rowley said.
He said the Prime Minister was forced to change her position on the CCJ because it did not have widespread support. He added: “I think the Prime Minister and her Government could not find any significant support for their position because it was crystal clear that it was UNC politicking.”
He said the proposed change was being “sugar-coated” as one of caution but “it is not that at all.” He said adopting the CCJ as the final court of appeal was a completion of independence.