St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Caribbean Court of Justice judge, Vincentian Adrian Saunders says there is good reason for the remaining Caribbean states which have not yet done so, to accede to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.
Justice Saunders addressed the matter while delivering a lecture on the Rule of Law in the Caribbean, as part of a Good Governance lecture series organized by the Team Unity administration.
“The establishment of that court is a very important milestone in the orderly de-linking from imperial and colonial control. It is the next logical step in the de-colonization process and until it is taken, we cannot be said to have completely rid ourselves of vestiges of our colonial experience. We at the CCJ have not hesitated to take the measures we have considered appropriate whenever we were convinced that a Caribbean government was compromising the rule of law. In a sense we are privileged to be able to apply the rule of law in the Caribbean both on a regional plain as well as a domestic plain.”
While all CARICOM member states have acceded to the original jurisdiction of the court, only four: Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica have so far made it their final appellate court.
The others have remained with the London-based Privy Council to date.
Justice Saunders says there are clear accession worries, which he believes date back to colonial times.
“During the colonial experience the harshest forms of oppression were meted out by our immediate persons we interfaced with in our respective countries. Whether the guy who had the whip with the gang, or the slave master, or the local governor and very often in order to ameliorate that harshness you had to petition England to get redress and very often you got redress because it didn’t suit colonialism for those kinds of excesses to occur. They could extract the wealth and benefit in the way in which they wanted to benefit without that kind of harsh brutality.”
According to the Caribbean jurist that practice led to the region’s people growing up with the notion that justice is something which is best obtained from overseas.
“It is very hard for us to begin to think that we are capable of producing judges of a sufficient caliber to resolve our final disputes. They had a big thing here two years ago and the Privy council gave a judgement and people said aha, you see, praise God for the Privy Council, now why didn’t anybody say well the CCJ would have given that same judgement, nobody will say that. So it’s about how we think about ourselves and our abilities and I don’t know when that will change but how long are we going to have a foreign court be our final court of appeal staffed with judges who, ya’ll ever see any of them here, I don’t know. Law is not mathematics, interpreting the constitution is not a mathematical equation, if so you wouldn’t have judges you would have computers. Judges give judgement and judgement must be informed by an awareness of the values and aspirations of the society for which you prescribe in a judgement.”
The Caribbean jurist expects that in time the CCJ will be fully accepted by all its Caribbean member states.
St Kitts and Nevis has not to date made accession to the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction a priority.