CARICOM secretary general welcomes court opinion on CCJ for Saint Lucia

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The secretary-general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Irwin LaRocque, has welcomed the judgement of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in respect of the process to be followed by Saint Lucia to adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as that country’s final court of appeal.

Chief Justice Janice Pereira delivered a judgment on 24 May 2013 in respect of an opinion sought from the ECCA on the issue by the attorney general of Saint Lucia, Phillip La Corbiniere. The attorney general asked the court to give an opinion on the proper and correct construction of provisions of the constitution relating to the right of appeal to the Privy Council and giving effect to the agreement establishing the CCJ.

In her ruling, the chief justice indicated that the constitution clearly “contemplates and provides the freedom to Saint Lucia to establish a court in common with other states or countries.” Further, she said Saint Lucia was empowered to enter into such an agreement on its own and the relevant Bill would not be subject to a referendum.

The secretary-general said that in confirming the procedure to be followed by Saint Lucia to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ as the final appellate court, the ECCA has set the course for the continuation of Saint Lucia’s road to judicial independence as well as point the way for other countries with similar provisions in their constitutions. LaRocque said this judgment was a seminal one in the progress towards more countries accepting the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.

The secretary-general further pointed out that earlier this week the prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerritt, in a media interview, said that his country was proceeding to accept the appellate jurisdiction of the Court after having held national consultations on the issue. In the interview, Skerritt said that Dominica would send a letter to the British government next week seeking permission to recognise the CCJ as its final court. The prime minister said that the government’s resolve was to move in recognising the CCJ as the final court and “certainly this year we should see Dominica recognising the CCJ”.

“These are wonderful signs for our Community as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas,” LaRocque said. The stature of our court internationally is high and its considered judgements have gained it great respect, he added.

The CCJ is recognised internationally, the secretary-general pointed out, as being established with modern and progressive systems and technology, which facilitate its functions as it administers justice in relation to 12 member countries of CARICOM in the original jurisdiction, and three countries in the appellate jurisdiction.

“The systems for financing and appointment of judges were a milestone in the development of our Community, and a symbol of CARICOM governments’ commitment to judicial independence and excellence,” the secretary-general added.

“I have every confidence that the CCJ is well equipped to meet the needs of Saint Lucia and Dominica as they take these important milestone steps. The expansion of the appellate jurisdiction of the court will only reinforce the sense of community as it contributes to the development of true Caribbean jurisprudence,” he added.

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