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COLONIAL TIES: Trinidad PM in no rush to ditch Privy Council

by: - March 23, 2011
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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar says her administration is in no rush to ditch the London-based Privy Council as Trinidad and Tobago’s final court even though regional countries have established the Port of Spain-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The CCJ was established in 2001 as a replacement for the Privy Council but while most of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are signatories to its Original jurisdiction that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement, only Barbados, Belize and Guyana are members of the Appellate jurisdiction.

In an interview with the Caribbean Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Persad Bissessar, who is also an attorney, said that her nine-month old People’s Partnership coalition is no rush to join the Appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The Prime Minister told the BBC that her administration had far more pressing matters to deal with than getting the CCJ to be Trinidad and Tobago’s final appellate body.

Persad Bissessar, who has just returned from a weeklong visit to London where she participated in activities of the Commonwealth, a grouping comprising mainly former colonies of Britain, said that the benefit of the Privy Council is its distance away from local issues and challenged the basis for the establishment of the CCJ.

“We have seen many judgments overturned by the Privy Council….because there is that distance in a small nation, a small island there could be contagion especially in cases that deal with governmental action, administrative law cases, judicial review cases, the constitutional motions.

“You see them going up to the Privy Council, a totally different kind of outlook because there is no contagion.

“The whole argument about the CCJ is not about justice. The argument was if you want to be a sovereign nation, you want to be independent, you know the world is not like that anymore. This world is a global village, so what’s wrong if judgments are being made by the Privy Council.

“In my respectful view, yes there is a place and a time for the CCJ but it is not an area of priority for my government at this point in time. We have the crime fighting to do, we have the social development to do, we have the infrastructure to do, and I don’t see that we are suffering as a result of having the Privy Council.

“Therefore why fix something that doesn’t need fixing right now,” she added.

Last weekend, outgoing CCJ President Michael de la Bastride told regional journalists that he was disappointed that Port of Spain and other Caribbean jurisdictions have not yet joined the court’s appellate jurisdiction.

“I leave this court with the conviction that we have a quality court and I think it would be a catastrophe to destroy it or endanger it or not to use it…if you have a good thing available for which you have paid, why in Heaven’s name don’t you use it,” he said.

“When I think of the possibility that people might let this court slip under the waves, I think its tragic,” he said, adding “I really think it would not only be a national catastrophe but a regional catastrophe, this is how strongly I feel about it”.

Prominent international jurist Sir Dennis Byron of St. Kitts-Nevis will head the CCJ replacing de la Bastide who goes on retirement in August.

Source: Cana News