By: Dr. Charles Warner
There is no doubt absolutely that there is more than enough acumen in the legal cadre to perform as good as the Privy Council or even better.
The problem is that too many of the politicians in the region, while the court has the acumen, do not have the tolerance for Democracy and the rule of Law.
As to the 2015 experience of St. Kitts and Nevis, many people in this country had their suspicions confirmed, their fears proven. Frankly, the judges at both the court of first instance and at the OECS Appeal Court should have resigned or be asked to resign. Their failure did profound damage to the establishment of the CCJ. And the call is still going out for them to leave the bench.
It is useful to try and be very fair as it relates to some of the reasons posited for the establishment of the CCJ. One of the reasons given is that the UK Privy Council is saying that there are too many cases from the region, disproportionate per capita.
What they are effectively saying is that There Is Too Much Injustice In The Region. But there is more, too often the decisions given in the Caribbean are reversed. This is not a good tale or signal as it relates to the dispensation of justice in the region.
The case coming out of St. Kitts and Nevis relating to the January 2015 boundary issue was a very, very simple one. Yet the correct decision or a decision could not come from the regional courts. Frankly, it is tantamount to a Caribbean hospital having to refer a case of appendicitis to a hospital in the UK.
Again, none of the judges can be any part of a CCJ. The CCJ will have to make sure that a lawyer of the ilk of Anthony Astaphan be not eligible for selection. And to be fair, any strong PAM or other party lawyer/politician. And apply this broadly over the region.
Even with a recognition and satisfaction as regards the brilliance of a legal cadre, a CCJ is not to be about making lofty positions for some people, but about justice.
Everyone is wary as it regards political influence and the old boys, old party networks. If the CCJ can be the final court for the UK and the Privy Council the final court for the region such would be a good exchange.
A mighty castle cannot be supported by this stilts. There are many parts of the judicial system at levels far below the appeal courts which need rectification before we can have a CCJ. They exist today with the Privy Council as the highest level and are serving as an impediment to justice. The present power of the DPP to nolle prose a case is a true example.
Political interference been seen over and over again, especially in the era of Douglasism. It was seen how this power was abused. People with the right political connection to the Labour party have led the interference of the DPP, rather than face the courts.
The case of the passport, the Nigerian woman and the government minister family is well known.
One of the reasons given for the CCJ is absolutely ridiculous. It is said that we are independent and are to rid ourselves of the colonial law overlords; we making our own decisions. Here is grandiose nonsense.
How can we have CCJ to match our Independence, shedding colonialism when the majority of the laws are still from colonials, many of which should be shed?
It means that we will have a CCJ but still beholden to the colonial laws. This is unacceptably inconsistent, undesirable.
Here is an example of progressive, independent, people legislation. Dr Simmonds went into office and met a law preventing children out of wedlock from carrying the father’s name and having a claim to father’s property. Dr. Simmonds and PAM changed the law. Essentially removing a colonial law.
Prior to the PAM-NRP government a female in government service, unmarried and becoming pregnant had to leave. The father in government service continued to work. It takes two to tango. Dr. Simmonds, Miss Mitchum et al changed the law. Today the discrimination exists no more. We will advance legislationally if the colonial laws are removed. Not by having a CCJ sitting on archaic colonial legislation. Such does not make the independence we are talking about.
Charles Wilkins has asked for the PAPA Act to be repealed. A colonial piece of legislation which has/had prevented families of those lost in the Christena and of the Vincy who died when the bridge collapsed from taking the Labour government to court. In both cases the government was liable. As it stands the CCJ has been established with a law like this in place.
While we are speaking of the CCJ and colonialism, at the moment the very same colonial powers are forcing us to make laws to suit their life style and faulty decadence.
The point is that if the CCJ is to be a pillar in our independence, then there is need for serious legislative reform. America and European laws are not to be forced down our throats when their way of life runs counter to our culture and history. The CCJ will not reflect or bring soundness to an independence when it flirts with colonial laws determining our lives.
Dr. Harris is right; the CCJ’s establishment is not to be a priority at this stage. Another matter for examination is if our Democracy is concurrently making the requisite advancement. For one thing, there is a clear need for legislative reform. Even as the broadscale legislation and enforcement is not consistent over the region.
It is unimpugnable, a CCJ cannot be set up on a foundation of colonial laws, many of which are archaic, and new ones forced upon us. Thus where is the Independence?