Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell. (iWN photo)

Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell says that St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) should maintain the London-based Privy Council as its highest court.

“I would say that in the light of the verdict of the people, this should not be tampered with,” he said on Boom FM last week.

Sir James, who led SVG for 16 years ending October 2002, was referring to the 2009 referendum in which the electorate rejected ditching the Privy Council — among other proposed changes to the Constitution.

“It (Privy Council) should be left alone… the status of our court should remain and should only be removed as the Constitution provides for: a two-thirds majority in the Parliament and a two-thirds majority from the people of St. Vincent,” Sir James said.

He further insisted that the main opposition New Democratic Party, which he founded, maintain a policy of keeping the Privy Council as the nation’s highest court.

Sir James comments last Friday came amidst allegations by opposition lawmakers that the Ralph Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party could use a bill introduced in Parliament the previous day, as a backdoor way of replacing the Privy Council, without a referendum.

However, Gonsalves, who tabled the proposed law, has said that this is neither the intention nor will be the effect of the Attorney General’s Reference (Constitutional Questions) Bill, 2018, the debate on which will continue in Parliament on May 24.

Sir James cited his own experience, where the Privy Council ruled in his favour in the Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry matter.

Sir James won at the Privy Council when it ruled that the commissioner had shown bias in his conclusion in the probe in which the former prime minister did not testify.

“The commission of inquiry never saw me, never heard me… And, moreover, the Privy Council was alarmed when the government enacted legislation to say I was not entitled to cost,” Sir James said.

The multi-million dollar commission has ended without any conclusion on whether there was any wrongdoing in the construction of the Ottley Hall Marina under the Mitchell administration, as the ULP had alleged.

Sir James had maintained that he and his government did nothing wrong.

He told listeners that, thankfully, he about to fight the legal challenge all the way to the Privy Council.

“… I am in the hole over $520,000 still,” he, however, said. I had to make a compromise judgment for us to get some money in settlement of my charges.

“I will say to my friend, Ralph, and his entire group, his tribe: get it straight, justice is more important than us.

“The quality of life is related to justice, the quality of life in this country has to be related to our democracy and when you have a democratic verdict by the people, why are you going to sneak behind the people and try — what is the agenda?

“This is a serious matter. This should not be left alone, because if the government succeeds in abolishing appeals to the Privy Council, no government getting in can do it again, … and say you want to come back [to the Privy Council]. This is final.

“Bear in mind always, you cannot legislate against government in the future. But this is one that you can legislate against a government in the future because once you go in this direction, there is no coming back.

“We need investors and we need serious investors in this country and it is a matter of their concern. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter in other parts of the Caribbean. We are in our position and we need to solve our own situation and, in my view, with all due respect, to the intellectuals and the bright people in the ULP government, they have no moral authority to tamper with the judicial process.”

Amidst the allegation, Sir James questioned the government’s intention.

“Why attempt to change it? What is the government’s agenda? What is he trying to do? Why do they want to abolish the Privy Council? Do they have [the] moral authority to do so, bearing in mind that the people of St. Vincent rejected it?”

Sir James said that during the 2009 referendum campaign, maintaining appeals to the Privy Council was the strongest point that he and his party made.

“And it was one of the things that motivated me and that motivated every property owner in St. Vincent and that is why there was a distinction even in the political result between a referendum and the consistency general election.

“This is dangerous stuff I would invite the government to rethink, I would invite them to leave well alone, I would like to know why they are [contemplating] it now …

“… no political party — and I insist that the party I formed maintain a policy as long as the party exists not to abolish to the privy Council to go to the Caribbean Court of justice.”

Sir James said it is not that he does not trust West Indian jurists.

“We have the talent, we have the ability. That is not the argument. Why did I have to go before five judges in the Privy Council to get justice?” he said, noting that one of his daughters is a lawyer.

Sir James reiterated the position of the people, as expressed in the referendum vote.

“So you want to tell me that the people of St. Vincent said ‘No’ and you are going behind their backs to go in a different direction?

“It shows you have no respect for the people; no respect for the people’s capacity to think. If you want to do it, let the people think again. Let the people pass a verdict again.

“Don’t be scared of the verdict of the people of St. Vincent. You love the verdict when the people vote for you and you get success. Come on. Love the verdict when they say no also. This is what democracy is all about and time is there,” he said.

21 COMMENTS

  1. No way Sir James, these folks does nothing for us in the Caribbean. The time has come for us to look pass the Privy Council and become a full member of the Caribbean Court of Justice, (CCJ). At least the CCJ is full Caribbean body. Why did Sir James omit the WINDRUSH AFFIRS, it’s trending.

    • Yes, it is far easier to manipulate the Caribbean Court than it is the Privy Council. Also notice that the ULP seeks to start a policy whereby the ULP-appointed AG gets to decide if a case is even legitimate; so certain complaints will not even have a chance to be heard, let alone get to the Caribbean Court.
      Gonsalves is doing all he can to get TOTAL POWER where virtually everything is under his control. We will not even be able to fart legally if he does not allow it.
      It is ULP-paid trolls like AI, Vincy Lawyer and Observer that seek to help Gonsalves to gain total control over everything. For all we know, they may all be Gonsalves himself.
      I suspect much of this is prerequisite to future moves to facilitate forcing the Boy Wonder onto the voters.

      • Look at who is calling people trolls? You pretend to be an expert on every issue when really you know A LOT of NOTHING.

        The proposed Bill does not even mention or restrict access to the Privy Council. No one’s constitutional right is being removed or limited. I implore you to acquire simple understanding skills or stay silent on issues you clearly have no knowledge on.

        You dont see anyone else all over the place sharing their “opinions” but the ultimate lost troll can’t resist attention, albeit negative one!!

        PS: NO POLITICAL PARTY CAN AFFORD ME!

      • Yes, it is easier to manipulate the CCJ than the Privy council. It seems like you touch the sore-spot of a certain internet lawyer. lol.

      • Lost pet… Your name says it all , I won’t dignify your assertion with an answer. If you really know me you will STFU.

  2. Another ULP stroke to help keep them in power forever as a one party state. DREG’s and the dynasty has fooled you all.

  3. Sometimes you just have to love Sir James. He is absolutely right. Sadly the government of SVG is trying all sorts of ways to grab more power from the people, and we have so many living here that are too dumb to realize it. If we lose the possibility of having cases heard by the Privy Council it will become much worse than we can imagine. It is, at present, by far the most impartial arbiter we have. Why would any democratic government want to lose that?….unless they want to establish a “sham democracy” that is really a dictatorship.

    • When you write, “ … we have so many living here that are too dumb to realize it,” were you also referring to “Observer”? (LOL)

      Call me all sorts of name if you like, including being an Uncle Tom, but I simply do no accept the implicit but self-contradictory premise of Sir James’ statement that, “We have the talent, we have the ability,” when it comes to our jurists compared to the law lords of the Privy Council.

      Every country that joins the Caribbean Court of Justice will end up with nothing but regrets.

      • I have read the proposed bill. And I have read Parnell Campbell’s opinion on the bill.

        I agree with Parnell entirely. We should have had this bill decades ago. The bill in no way strips the Privy Council from adjudicating any matter that comes before the Appeal Court. In fact it reaffirms the authority and finality of the Appellate process at which the Privy Council sits at the top.

        In that sense the bill protects Vincentians rights, not undermine them.

        If this bill cannot get a 15-0 approval in the Vincentian parliament one of two things must be true.

        Either (1) the political system in SVG is so poisonous that the NDP has taken as a principle that they will oppose the ULP on every single issue regardless of the merits of the case.

        Or (2) There is a deep misunderstanding of the principle, meaning, and practice of the Rule of Law. That would indicate a huge intellectual deficit in the NDP.

        If either of these things is true, SVG is truly screwed.

        As an opposition party, The NDP is a government in waiting. We therefore need an opposing party which can put the will of the nation over its partisan interests. And we also need smart people in the government in waiting.

        So until the NDP proves otherwise, I will assume that they will support this bill.

      • I agree! Yes, it certainly is contradictory. Mitchell should explain what he meant. C. Ben, I certainly disagree with you on certain things. On other issues you have unbelievable insight, not to mention great courage to suffer the slings and arrows. When you are attacked few of the attackers provide any substance, just insults. We can all be insulting and arrogant at times. I try to ignore that and instead hope to get better informed from others comments. Too bad there are some, such as Observer and AI who are employed to give misinformation or “Vincy Lawyer” to occasionally act impartial but actually just try to deflect any criticism of the government.

  4. That guy Friday have a slave mentality.He think the white man court system is better.I wouldn’t support someone who tgint the former colonial system is better m

  5. James Mitchell sell SVG out when he was PM.James Mitchell please go away.Go the hell away.I am sick of these out bags who think they still have relevance.

    • Man! finally someone speak the truth around here, I really sick and tired of this guy they called James Mitchell, other than sell SVG out someone please look at his 16 years and show or tell me what did he do to Improve SVG, mean while you got people like Tommy Hilfiger own island tell the native where and when they can go or stay, so Please someone tell him Shut to Hell UP

  6. It is just profoundly typical of these “red shirted individuals” like this very poor “Observer” here, for this toady here, is a very poor observer indeed, to change the issue under review here, to something totally different all together.

    My question to this die-hard, redshirted sycophant is, what on earth is the “WINDRUSH AFFAIR” in the UK to do with our failing Democracy, here in St Vincent and the Grenadines?

    Perhaps our brownnoser “Observer” is one of those redshirted bureaucrat the dictatorship loves to keep as their prized idiots, court jesters whom they could call upon to oppress the mass or is our “Observer” our Napoleon of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” renown?

    • True! Obviously “Observer” is just a paid troll there to support anything and everything that is ULP or Gonsalves. At present referendums are not going to happen. Many Vincentians are ignorant or maybe just thoroughly brainwashed but they are not stupid. If there were a referendum on whether or not to keep the Privy Council, those in favor of dictatorship would lose, like they did the last time. Even many of the ULP (yes, there are some that are not shoeless and/or clueless) would vote against dictatorship.

    • Don’t study Observer or the equally semi-literate Veridical. Still, “forgive them for they know not what they say.”

  7. Your so right c.ben-david look at Barbados they were the first to get bite in the #ss and they didn’t even know they were a member until they were taken before the court a woman was awarded $75.000 and her lawyers are claiming millions in fees.

  8. Best keep the Privy Council. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And it definitely ain’t broke. Many international companies and individuals base themselves in the UK precisely because of English law and the protection provided by the privy council as last resort. As a significant investor in SVG I would be very deeply concerned by us dumping the PC and heading for the unknown. NB most of our lawyers are trained in the UK anyway, so why bother moving jurisdiction?

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