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Civil society role critical to advance CCJ, says former president

By LK Hewlett From Caribbean News Now

BASSETERRE, St Kitts (WINN) — Former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice Sir Dennis Byron has weighed in on why two more Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have rejected the CCJ.

Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada both held referenda on Tuesday to decide if their countries would move to the CCJ as their final appellate court instead of the UK Privy Council, and in both countries, the required two-thirds majority vote was not realized.

Byron told WINN FM that the low voter turnout in both countries may be an indication that the issue did not resonate with the voters as being important to them.

“Theoretically it’s disappointing because it means that there’s an issue which people might not see as important to their lives and to their welfare. To some extent it might be true that very few people have any interaction with the Privy Council in all these years, I don’t know if it’s something that’s remote from people’s lives that makes it not a matter of urgent importance to participate in voting.

“It might very well be too as I listen to discussions there is evidence of more of a need for more public information and education on these issues and maybe one of the lessons to come out of this is that there’s a rationale to now have continued public education on these matters where they are not linked to any particular outcome, just education for the sake of education,” Byron said.

He said based on the public’s responses, it might have been better if civil society organizations had led the national dialogue instead of politicians. Pundits in both Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada suggested that the referenda appeared to have come down to a vote for the government position or that of the opposition.

The jurist encouraged civil society groups such as Chambers of Industry and Commerce to lead the necessary public education drive on the CCJ going forward.

“As I’ve listened to some of the comments it seems clear that the people would prefer if these efforts were supported by civil society institutions and not the political establishment. One of the problems in our region and it’s something I’ve spoken about several times is that the civil society institutions have not come forward. They’ve not been exercising any leadership in these discussions so there has been kind of a vacuum and I’m hoping in the aftermath of this you will see more civil society institutions getting the desire or the will to sponsor and support educational activities on matters of this nature,” Byron said.

Original story from West Indies News Network

IMAGE: Sir Dennis Byron

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