Keep Party Politics out
Says Sir Dennis Byron, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice
When the issue of Dominica's recognition of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the country's final court of appeal is being discussed, citizens should keep party politics out.
Sir Dennis Byron, president of the CCJ told members of the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce (DAIC) at the Fort young Hotel last week that as far as the CCJ is concerned politicians should consider the interest of the county.
"(I hope) that your politicians will demonstrate the maturity to see that this is an issue that is not an issue that is a party political issue at all," Sir Byron said.
The CCJ president said that his speech "comes at a pivotal time in the history of Dominica" because Prime Minister Skerrit announced late last year that his Government will be moving "very speedily to recognize the CCJ" as Dominica's final court of appeal. According to the Constitution, for Dominica to become a member of the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction, there are two legal requirements.
"The first requirement is for the Governments of Dominica and the UK Government to agree to abolish appeals to the Privy Council. The second requirement is that a Bill must be passed with the support of at least three quarters of all elected members of the House. This Bill would alter section 106 of the Constitution which is the provision that currently allows appeals to the Privy Council.
"Now, the British Government has already given numerous assurances that it will not stand in the way of Dominica's plans to join the CCJ and will agree to the abolition once it is requested. Therefore, the onus is on the members of the House to place a Bill on the parliamentary agenda so that Dominica can fulfill its promise to be a full member of the CCJ. The decision taken by the Government of Dominica to join the CCJ is timely. And the CCJ stands ready and able to serve. I trust that it will not be long before other governments in the OECS follow this example of leadership without too much delay".
On the issue of the independence of the judicial system in the Caribbean, Sir Byron said he understood the matter has been widely discussed in Dominica. He said in some quarters, it seems "almost fashionable to suspect" that politicians exercise control and authority over the Judges and influence their decision making in given cases.
"I want to reject that totally in regard to the CCJ," he said. "We should encourage an awareness of the CCJ's institutional arrangements as it would become clear that these safeguards completely shield the Court and the Judges from any political interference".
According to Sir Byron, if the court is given the opportunity to maximize its full potential, "there can be no doubt that the CCJ will acquit itself as a sterling institution that can serve the people of Dominica with excellence".
"Since World War II, several of the countries that have abolished the Privy Council now have their own final courts of appeal which have garnered reputations as top class institutions. I am confident that in time the CCJ's growing international reputation as a high quality Court will continue to be enriched and I believe the Court will surpass all expectations".