Why bother with the CCJ?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael A. Ding­wall

Although I had some se­ri­ous is­sues with our CARICOM coun­tries go­ing ahead with the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice, I do sup­port the idea of the need for us in the re­gion to have our own fi­nal court. How­ever, a re­cent CCJ rul­ing in re­spect of Bar­ba­dos is fur­ther strength­en­ing the doubts peo­ple like me have about our readi­ness for this court.

Al­most two years ago, the CCJ ruled in favour of Ja­maica’s Shanique Myrie in a case she brought against the gov­ern­ment of Bar­ba­dos. Two years later the gov­ern­ment of Bar­ba­dos is yet to pay a cent. What­ever the true rea­son for the de­lay in the cour­tordered pay­ment, the gov­ern­ment of Bar­ba­dos is re­ported to have said it is not in the habit of chas­ing lawyers to pay them. By ex­ten­sion, it can also be in­ter­preted that it is not in the habit of be­ing in any hurry to abide by court rul­ings.

Now we are al­ways be­ing told that we need to grow up and have our own court. But to what avail if the very gov­ern­ments that es­tab­lished it ef­fec­tively refuse to abide by its rul­ings?

Un­like Ja­maica, Bar­ba­dos uses this CCJ as its fi­nal court. I re­mem­ber some­time ago hear­ing a Bar­ba­dian politi­cian com­plain­ing that he has a se­ri­ous prob­lem with judges from Ja­maica and other CARICOM coun­tries that don’t use the CCJ as their fi­nal court hav­ing any­thing to do with judg­ments in­volv­ing Bar­ba­di­ans. I won­der if this sen­ti­ment has any­thing to do with Bar­ba­dos re­fus­ing to be in a hurry to abide by the CCJ’s rul­ing?

Many of this court’s sup­port­ers con­stantly re­mind us that as its fund­ing is in­de­pen­dent of any gov­ern­ment con­trol, there is no need to worry about its judges com­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of its mem­ber gov­ern­ments when rul­ings are to be made. Well, that may very well be true. How­ever, as Bar­ba­dos is now show­ing us, see­ing that they can’t in­flu­ence its judg­ments, CARICOM gov­ern­ments clearly can al­ways ig­nore them.

I sup­pose one shouldn’t be too sur­prised at the ob­vi­ous spine­less­ness of the CCJ. Af­ter all, it is a prod­uct of CARICOM which, as far as I can see, is the re­gion’s big­gest talk shop. Nonethe­less, what a pity if the CCJ has also turned out to be just another talk-shop.

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