The former attorney general of Grenada, Dr Francis Alexis has expressed the view that having the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final court of appeal will complete Caribbean countries’ independence.
Dr Francis, who is on island to deliver a lecture on the CCJ as part of the Dominica Bar Association’s Law Week 2014, told members of the press at a ‘Meet and Greet’ event on June 5 that Caribbean countries must consider delinking from the Privy Council.
“The next most important question for us here in the Caribbean is this, are we going to complete our independence and stop running to London when we have a legal issue among ourselves?”
“Are we going to nurture and build our self-respect that we are going to stop running to the judicial committee of the Privy Council and instead settle among ourselves our legal disputes, the way any independent nation should?”
Francis, who holds a PHD in Public Law, is also a former senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies and has written several books and numerous journals on law.
Dr. Alexis, who was admitted to practice before the High Court of Justice in Grenada on 10 December 1980, was appointed one of Her Majesty’s Counsel, Queen’s Counsel, QC, in the Eastern Caribbean by Letters Patent dated 7 August 2008.
He explained that in order for Caribbean countries to delink from the Privy Council, political parties must set aside political partisan concerns.
“In order for us to do that political parties must set aside their narrow political partisan concerns and take a national view of the thing, because the minute you have division you end up where St Vincent and the Grenadines ended up in 2009, they could not come up with the two thirds vote and that is a major obstacle in the way of most of us in the Caribbean.”
He continued that heads of countries are not the ones preventing the move from the Privy Council to the CCJ because it was the heads who created it and are the ones looking forward to getting into the CCJ.
The CCJ he added is in the business of developing the jurisprudence of its Caribbean member states.
“I think the major problem is the high referendum majority vote and that’s why I am paying so much tribute to the founding fathers of Dominican independence because they have this clause here which gives us a way around referendum vote.”
The writers of Dominica’s constitution put in two clauses which he said show that they were looking into the future.
“They were forward looking; they were able to look at around the corner and down the stretch beyond because they put in there that when you come to have an act in this country effectively to move out of the Privy Council, you’re not going to require referendum approval”.
“That majority referendum vote, in the constitution will not apply to a bill to alter what I call the Privy Council Appeals Clause, if the bill is going to give effect to an agreement between Dominica and the United Kingdom concerning appeals from any Dominican court to the judicial committee.”
This, Dr Alexis said, created history as it was the first time such a provision was going to be written into any independent Caribbean constitution.
Therefore he said the message which he has had since 1975 is and will always be that “you cannot complete your independence, you cannot nurture your self-respect, you cannot advance your dignity if every legal dispute you have you are going to running to the Privy Council”.
“…because psychologically and sociologically what you are doing is saying you cannot depend upon your own people to give you justice, you must run to London and I find that insulting,” Dr Alexis noted.
He delivered a lecture on the topic, “Into the future with the constitution, the role of the CCJ’ at the Dominica State College on Thursday evening.
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