The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) sat in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday for the first time in its 13-year history.
The ceremonial sitting concluded the courts inauguration activities for its recently sworn- in President, Justice Adrian Saunders.
The sitting, hosted in the House of Assembly, Kingstown, was attended by various members of local government including Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of SVG, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday, Speaker of the House of Assembly Jomo Thomas and heads of regional judiciaries, court of appeal judges, diplomats and numerous local attorneys.
During his presentation, the CCJ President explained the decision to host the sitting in SVG. He stated that it resulted from a desire to provide an opportunity for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to see and meet with the judges of the CCJ. And, naturally, it gives the judges, only one of whom is Vincentian, the opportunity to experience the flavour and nuances of the rich diversity of the Caribbean and SVG in particular.
In an afternoon in which, speakers quoted various regional musicians, poets, eminent academics and jurists, there were many who both lauded the character, temperament and integrity of the CCJs third president and who also called upon regional nations to complete the circle of independence and accede to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.
In a stirring presentation, Gonsalves said, I never thought I would see the day that the Caribbean Court of Justice sat in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Defending the independence of the CCJ, he dismissed the notion that the court is susceptible to political interference, insisting that those responsible for setting up the CCJ made certain to put in place features like the CCJ Trust Fund and the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC) to safeguard the courts independence.
Pledging to work to make the CCJ the countrys final court of appeal, the prime minister extended an invitation to the Leader of the Opposition to work together to strive for the seemingly impossible.
In his presentation, Justice Bryan Sykes, chief justice of Jamaica, acknowledging the increased efficiency of the court, noted the impact of the CCJ in the region, not just because of its judicial work but also because of its championing for increased access to justice for regional citizens.
He further stated that he and all the judges of Jamaica look forward to the continued growth and expansion of this court under the presidency of Justice Saunders.
We pledge unreservedly, our support for the President and the Court and will do all within our power to continue to make the case for this Court to become our final appellate court.
Echoing the sentiments of the prime minister, Rene Baptiste, president of the Bar association of SVG also called for the eastern Caribbean states to make the CCJ its final court of appeal as she recalled the distinguished career of Justice Saunders.
In his response, Justice Saunders stated said: I am extremely proud of this Court. We have a fine complement of judges. The Courts judgements can withstand the closest scrutiny. Indeed, our stakeholders consistently credit the court with a high quality of reasoning in our judgments. Our court staff are hard-working and efficient. The court has no backlog. Our electronic filing system is the envy of courts in the Western Hemisphere.