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CCJ president speaks out

From Jamaica Observer

Says Grenada referendum defeat should encourage further support for regional court

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — President of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Sir Dennis Byron yesterday dismissed suggestions that the results of the Grenada referendum represented more evidence that the regional court is not fit to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court.

Grenadians voted to reject not only the CCJ, but all the other initiatives that the Keith Mitchell Government had placed before them in a referendum on November 24. Apart from the CCJ, they also rejected a fixed date for general elections as well as term limits for the prime minister and the appointment of a leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

Addressing the 9th Annual Caribbean Court of Justice International Law Moot court for 2017, Sir Dennis said that he was disappointed unlike two years ago, when he was in a position to announce the accession of another Caribbean country to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ.

He told the audience that the number of Caribbean Community (Caricom) states having relinquished the Privy Council in favour of acceding to the CCJ remains at four, namely Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana.

Sir Dennis said that in the Grenada referendum one of the amendments proposed at that plebiscite was the replacement of the Privy Council by the CCJ.

“The final tally on that matter was 9,639 votes or 43.27 per cent for, as against 12,635 votes or 56.73 per cent against. The naysayers interpreted this to be yet another rebuff to the CCJ, more “evidence” of the court’s unfitness to replace the Privy Council.

“We in the court do not quite see it that way. We interpret this as an incitement to work harder to make the court more attractive to the Caribbean polity. We appreciate that there is a quantum of both misinformation and disinformation abroad about the court.

“We understand that the most effective way to neutralise that is through continued good performance and ensuring that the news gets out about it. We understand that only by demonstrating what we are worth, in a manner that is visible to the public, that we will woo a majority of support to our side.”

But he said the presence of the eight debating teams from the eligible 10 Caricom institutions was tremendously heartening and a great source of encouragement for the court.

“You are the testimony that there are still great things to come for the Caribbean Court of Justice and, by extension, the entire Caribbean region, of course,” he said, adding that since he assumed office one of the high points of his tenure has been the annual moot.

“It gladdens my heart to observe the enthusiasm, the maturity, and the rigour with which our young law students have tackled the moot briefs. The good news is that however chancy the present circumstances of the CCJ may seem, the sheer energy and endeavour you invest into this annual exercise virtually guarantees brighter days ahead for the court.

“It is my conviction that that is exactly what is furnished by your teams participating so wholly and positively in the annual moot. By dint of that very participation, through the verve and energy that characterise your youthful yet learned approach, you endow the court with promise.”

The CCJ, established in 2001 to replace the Privy Council, also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) that governs the regional integration movement. It has both an original and appellate jurisdiction, with most of the Caricom countries being signatories to the original jurisdiction.

Sir Dennis said that the CCJ is the “keeper of the seal of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME)” that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the 15-member grouping.

“A thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas by the Caribbean legal fraternity is a sine qua non of the development and strengthening of the CSME. This annual moot provides young attorneys-at-law with a sterling opportunity to comprehend the ramifications and wherewithal of the RTC and paves the way for the widening of its scope and development.”

He said that the responsibilities of the CCJ with regard to the CSME are enormous. Recalling the writing of the former CCJ Judge Justice Duke Pollard, that “the rights and obligations created by the CSME are so important and extensive — relating to the establishment of economic enterprises, the provision of professional services, the movement of capital, the acquisition of land for the operation of businesses — that there is a clear need to have a permanent, central, regional institution to authoritatively and definitively pronounce on those rights and corresponding obligations”.

Sir Dennis told the debaters that that their “delving into the inner workings of the RTC and thrashing out an original jurisdiction matter before this very CCJ does more than provide you with an opportunity to hone your adversarial skills.

“Through the very process of your investment and your praxis, the court itself is imbued with a greater strengthening of its ethos, of its armour, of its structure, and is better fortified assuring that leadership role,” he said, adding that “by dint of your involvement in this exercise, you validate the Caribbean Court of Justice in its role in the van of the development of Caribbean jurisprudence.

“You lift us up. You demonstrate that the Caribbean region is no less creative, no less responsible, no less talented than any other. You make us all proud — that fact I commend to your hearts.”

IMAGE: SIR DENNIS… disappointed

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