By *Alicia A. Dells
It was with great pride that I followed the installation ceremony for eminent Caribbean jurist, the Honourable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders to the post of president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Justice Saunders took the oath of office to become the third CCJ president last Wednesday, July 4, during a ceremony in Jamaica, which coincided with the 39th CARICOM Heads of Government meeting.
As a fellow Vincentian and legal professional, I was overcome with feelings of excitement and admiration when I read media reports of various CARICOM leaders endorsing Justice Saunders’ promotion. Many described him as a man of integrity with a long and distinguished legal career. It was also reported that Justice Saunders’ predecessor and former colleague, Sir Dennis Byron, echoed similar sentiments and expressed great confidence in the new president’s ability to fulfil his role.
During his address, the new CCJ president bemoaned the slow pace at which CARICOM member states have signed on to the appellate jurisdiction of the court. I am also quite disappointed with the delay by many member states in their endorsement of the CCJ as their final appeal court. To date, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have made this important move.
Replacing the English Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the CCJ can only augur well for CARICOM. Our laws will be interpreted by jurists who have first-hand knowledge and an in depth understanding of our region and its people. Further, there will be uniformity in the interpretation and application of our laws which would go a long way in the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence.
Notwithstanding the obvious benefits to be derived from having the CCJ as the final court for all CARICOM member states, some regional governments seem to lack the political will and others lack the ability to convince their electorate that the CCJ is the way to go.
Over the years there have been numerous calls from several quarters for Caribbean territories to commit to deeper relations. Quite recently, newly elected prime minister of Barbados the Honourable Mia Mottley called on her regional counterparts to stop paying lip service to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and do their part in breaking down the barriers to enhanced regional integration.
As a region, we cannot continue to rest on our laurels and expect that we will achieve the level of integration necessary for greater competitiveness and a more influential voice on the global stage. The time to act is now! The time has come for regional governments to move with haste to facilitate an environment that permits regional institutions such as the CCJ to serve and legitimise our new order.
*Alicia A. Dells is an Attorney-at-Law practising in Barbados. Miss Dells has also been admitted to practise as a Barrister and Solicitor in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.