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Panel discussion on CCJ: Region must stand on its own
The Caribbean Court of Justice will only work as the final court of appeal in this region if Caribbean people start believing in their own capabilities. These were the sentiments expressed by the four panellists at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies yesterday at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine. The members of the panel were:
• Opposition senator Dr Lester Henry,
• Former attorney general John Jeremie,
• T&T Guardian columnist and historian Dr Raymond Ramcharitar,
• Chairman of the Caricom Competition Commission Dr Kusha Haraksingh.
The topic discussed was: The Caribbean Court of Justice: An idea whose time has come?
Henry said Caribbean people needed to stop depending on an international body to make its decisions. He questioned if the Privy Council even had respect for people of the region. “Especially given the fact that the English people don’t want you. These people have been trying to get rid of you for years. We don’t have any shame in this region,” he said.
He said the Privy Council had made it known that it has been very expensive to maintain its relationship with the region, and he felt the decisions it made reflected its annoyance with having to still preside over regional matters. “It’s like a pothound trying to lick your feet. That’s how we look to these people.”
Henry said it was obvious that people had lost faith in their own abilities. “But the way to solve the problem is not by making it worse, it is by asserting more independence and strengthening your confidence,” he said. Jeremie said the two-path approach taken by other countries like Malaysia and Signgapore for leaving the Privy Council could not be adopted by this country because of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“The difference, in a nutshell, is, we are party to an agreement, and that agreement binds all of us to move as one,” he said. This is why, he said, if the country is to move away from the Privy Council it has to do so with both criminal and civil matters in order for the CCJ to work properly as a the final court of appeal.
A member of the audience, Dr Michael Anthony Lilla, Chief of Protocol at the CCJ, said people needed to stop thinking of the court as a Trinidadian court. “The CCJ is not a Trinidad and Tobago court. It is an international tribunal that functions in an entirely different way to Trinidad and Tobago courts,” he said.