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Dozens of immaculately dressed dignitaries from near and far met at the new splendid multi-million dollar Chinese-built State House last Friday to witness an historic occasion. The heard the Sisserou Singers sing and watched them dance with precise steps and gestures and Michele Henderson, Dominica's newest song-bird delighted with her rendition of the award-winning "Celebrating CARICOM".

The occasion was Dominica's ascension to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court. The ceremony was held on Friday, March 6, 2015.

"In a certain way the Caribbean Court of Justice has always been your court but today it is completely your court in every respect and now it is the final court of appeal to the Commonwealth of Dominica," said the President of the CCJ the Right Honourable Sir Charles Michael Dennis Byron.

He added : "The court as a whole appreciates the significance of this occasion…I am really pleased to be able to present to you and the whole nation of Dominica the judges and the Registrar of the Court who are sharing in this ceremony.

"The CCJ is an independent court, it is not part of the domestic affairs of any member state. Its independence is assured by the institution arrangements for the appointments of judges and by the character of the judges who have been selected in a competitive process and appointed.

"The CCJ offers increased access to justice for the people of the Caribbean this is very evident in the countries where the CCJ is already the final court. Unlike the Privy Council ordinary folk have been bringing their cases before the CCJ. It is not only government and big business who are litigants before our court, many cases have come from Barbados, Guyana and Belize where people have brought their personal, domestic land disputes before our court for justice. I can proudly assure you that our court is accessible to anyone who is a legitimate pursuit and who is worthy o f a jurisdiction at the highest level of justice," stated Sir Byron.

In addition, to being a court for the Caribbean people Sir Byron said that the court is modern and technologically savvy to uphold a level of transparency.

"The CCJ is a modern court it's a high tech court cases in the CCJ can be heard online, trials and case management conferences are conducted by video link. Official transcript of our proceedings is in the form of video or audio record and these transcripts are available on the court's website the same night of proceedings providing transparency and access to the public at large anyone can access these records by visiting the court's website," he stated. "We believe that the court will serve the citizens of Dominica well we believe that it is a well-functioning judiciary which like all well-functioning judiciaries contributes to economic development and social stability and we sincerely hope and trust that Dominica will derive these benefits from our operations here."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit noted that "Today is an historic day in Dominica, for today we take a step that makes the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica, the first in the OECS to accede to appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)."

Skerrit added: "This may seem a trite observation to some, but the reality of making more accessible and more affordable a second appellate process deepens the rights guaranteed by our constitution and increases Dominica's ability to attract more foreign investment for which access to the revolution of the disputes and the rule of law remains critical."

"The road that has led us to this day have been paved with the ambivalence that some of our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean continue to wrestle with in the search of full constitutional independence.

"I have in the past argued that our country could not be truly independent if its final court of appeal was a court located in London thousands of miles away and tens of thousands of dollars away from the access of ordinary Dominican citizens. We complete today that third and final declaration of our sovereignty we build today on the two earlier steps our political independence and our determination that our head of state must be citizen of our fair land."


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