|‘CCJ under serious threat’ |
FRANCIS JOSEPH Friday, February 27 2004
THE first fallout from the maritime dispute involving Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago could be the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). CARICOM states agreed to the CCJ as the region’s final Court of Appeal to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. But the Barbados-TT dispute has now put the proposed CCJ under serious threat. Karl Hudson-Phillips QC, president of the Law Association, said yesterday that judging from the dispute, it is very difficult to accept that the proposed CCJ with judges from the various CARICOM states will function smoothly and with public confidence as a final Court of Appeal for the region, particularly if there are judges from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados on the court.
Hudson-Phillips added, “the importance of a final Court of Appeal cannot be underestimated. It must not be conceived in an atmosphere of hostility. If it is, it will not enjoy full public confidence which is essential for its success. Justice cannot be compromised.” Hudson-Phillips said the impasse between TT and Barbados has reinforced the concerns previously expressed by the Law Association for the establishment of the CCJ. He added, “the recent statements of the Attorney General of Barbados which have been published in the press are a virtual declaration of war on Trinidad and Tobago. The inability of the two countries to resolve their differences by cordial discussions demonstrates the fragility of the relationship between CARICOM member states.”
The association’s president continued, “the hasty approach by Barbados to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for resolution of a dispute between member states of CARICOM is indicative of the lack of confidence in the leaders of our countries to successfully deal for themselves with disputes between their countries. “It also demonstrates a basic difference in how the people of the two countries, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, conduct their affairs. The atmosphere surrounding the dispute between the two CARICOM countries is now one of apparent hostility and threats from Barbados,” he added. Hudson-Phillips said the Council of the Law Association was deeply saddened by the existence of the boundary dispute between Barbados and TT and the aggression employed by Barbados in attempting to deal with the matter. “The Council is of the view that the establishment and survival of a Caribbean Court of Justice as the final Court of Appeal for the region are under serious threat,” Hudson-Phillips declared. Barbados and TT are two of the CARICOM states which have agreed for the establishment of the CCJ with headquarters in Port-of-Spain.
Barbados’ Attorney General Mia Mottley came to Port-of-Spain late last year to address a seminar on the proposed establishment of the CCJ. Barbados’ Chief Justice Sir David Simmons is the chairman of the Regional Judicial and Legal Service Commission which will be responsible for appointing the judges and staff for the CCJ. There are three nationals of TT on the regional commission. While Barbados has moved ahead with legislation to deal with the CCJ, the TT Parliament has not yet debated the legislation which will give effect to the CCJ being the final Court of Appeal. Before the maritime dispute arose, the Attorneys General of TT, Barbados and Jamaica, got together to petition the Privy Council in an attempt to have the mandatory death penalty returned as the law in the Caribbean. That hearing before the Law Lords starts on March 22 in London, with the Attorneys General of the three islands expected to be present.