Judges of the CCJ along with the Chief Justices of Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court during a ceremonial sitting in St Vincent and the Grenadines in July 2018.

Opposition senator, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste says her New Democratic Party (NDP) and the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are at one on the topic of replacing the London-based Privy Council with the Port of Spain-headquartered Caribbean Court of Justice as SVG’s highest court.

“I think our party’s position is clear. Our party’s position is the people’s position, which is, we did not consent at that time to having the CCJ as our final court of appeal,” she said.

She was referring to the nation’s rejection in 2009 of the switch to the CCJ among other proposed changes to the nation’s Constitution.

The debate had been reinvigorated with the ascension of Vincentian judge, Justice Adrian Saunders to the presidency of the CCJ.

Among activities across the region to mark Saunders’ elevation was a ceremonial sitting of the CCJ in Kingstown last Friday.

Speaking on Boom FM on Monday, Bacchus-Baptiste, a lawyer who became a senator late last year, said:

“Let me make that clear. This has absolutely nothing to do with the scholarship of the judges, our Caribbean justices. We do not have a problem like that. But the people of St. Vincent, and of the OECS — only Dominica has joined the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction; the rest of the OECS has not.

“And we cannot just ignore the feelings of the people. It is a valid feeling that politicians would interfere on a court where they are so close and they know the judges. That is the feeling of the people, whether ULP wants to admit it or not.

“This is not just common to St. Vincent or unique to St. Vincent. It is throughout the OECS and Jamaica, including Trinidad, where the very court sits. So, we have to ask ourselves, how valid is that feeling of the people, which was overwhelmingly demonstrated when that constitution was not accepted.”

Bacchus-Baptiste spoke at Friday’s ceremonial sitting. She used the opportunity to pay tribute to Saunders as a personal and longstanding friend and did not comment on the Privy-Council CCJ debate.

However, in his comments at the event, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, whose government led the constitutional reform effort, spoke frontally about the Privy Council-CCJ debate at Friday’s event.

He noted a post-referendum ruling of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in St. Lucia, interpreted to mean that a two-third majority of Members of Parliament, rather than a two-thirds majority in a referendum is needed to switch from the Privy Council to the CCJ.

Opposition Senator, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste. (iWN file photo)

In her response on radio, Bacchus-Baptiste said her feeling is that if Gonsalves is so willing to change to the CCJ, he should demit office, which she said he is holding illegally, and her party would pass the law.

“Call fresh elections. The NDP would pass it because you know something? The fear is not that the NDP would interfere, you know. We are known as a party, which is democratic, we are known for that. The democracy in New Democratic Party is real.

“We are not known for interfering in the administration of justice. We are not known at all, so the fear of the Vincentian populace, the fear of the people of the OECS is that politicians would interfere.”

Bacchus-Baptiste rejected the view that a referendum is not needed to replace the Privy Council.

“In fact, I am still holding that it requires a referendum of the people. It requires a referendum and then two-thirds majority and many of us believe that because we do not accept the attorney general’s reference decision that was passed in St. Lucia, that it doesn’t require a referendum and that is another whole legal argument.”

The senator called on the prime minister to address “the very real, perceived belief of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that there will be interference, not in every decision, only in that one or two decisions that is important politically”.

Bacchus-Baptiste said that the NDP believes that in switching to the CCJ it would be “going against the will of the people, the clearly expressed will of the people. We are a democratic party.

“Listen, my heart pains. I really want a government who will not interfere; I want to see the CCJ, especially now that a son of the soil leads it. I want that because they are brilliant judges and they have given brilliant decisions so far. It is a travesty that in this region our people so do not trust the politicians that we cannot break from the Privy Council.”

Bacchus-Baptiste said she did not make these points on Friday because she did not think that was the time or place nor did she go there “for political reasons”.

“I came there to pay tribute to Adrian as I have done. I had a prepared speech, I was asked to speak for three minutes…

“And my purpose then was to pay tribute. I was not there to play politics and to decry why and expose, which I think might have been an embarrassment, the reason why persons in St. Vincent don’t trust going to the CCJ, then it would have turned into a whole political debate, which I did not think was proper.

“I didn’t think that was the venue. I was in a court of law, a ceremonial sitting of the court of law and I came there just to pay tribute to my friend, Adrian Saunders.”

4 replies on “NDP’s stance on CCJ is ‘people’s position’ ”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    The decision of the Caribbean court of appeal in St. Lucia was a biased one made to increase the chances of further countries joining the CCJ by unlawfully abrogating the constitutional requirement that such a decision needs to be approved by the people in a referendum.

    Ironically, the court of appeal decision would surely be overruled by the law lords of the Privy Council, if ever taken to that court, all the more reason for us never to join the politicized CCJ.

  2. Many persons seem to have deliberately tried to confuse and or misguide the Issue of the
    the CCJ , becoming the Final Court in the Region , these Peddlers of Gloom & Doom ,
    have missed the Essential points , especially some who themselves are in the Legal Profession . I find this to be absolutely appalling .

    According to Wikipedia , the symbol of Justice is a Woman who is blindfolded , the blindfold represents Objectively , in that :

    JUSTICE IS OR SHOULD BE METED OUT OBJECTIVELY, WITHOUT FEAR OR

    FAVOUR ; REGARDLESS OF MONEY , WEALTH , POWER OR IDENTITY .

    In her left hand , Lady Justice holds Balance Scales :

    THIS REPRESENTS THE WEIGHING OF EVIDENCE .

    It infers therefore that :

    EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF THEIR STATUS IN LIFE IS ENTITLED TO HAVE

    A FAIR TRIAL ; REGARDLESS OF ONE’S STATUS IN LIFE , THEY MUST RECIEVE

    AND ARE ENTITLED TO ENJOY THE SAME TREATMENT IN COURT REGARDLESS

    OF WHETHER THEY ARE WEALTHY OR POOR .

    Interestingly those who are Lawyers , and support staying with the Privy Council blindly
    refuse to take into consideration the enormous amount of money that must be spent going
    to the Privy Council in England , to seek Justice . Currently only wealthy Persons in the
    Region , who live in Countries not yet members of the Caribbean Court of Justice ,can have access to the Privy Council . Frankly , in those Countries ,

    LADY JUSTICE AINT BLIND , SHE ONLY CATERS TO THOSE WHO ARE

    WEALTHY . THOSE WHO ARE NOT WEALTHY , DO NOT , AND CANNOT

    HAVE ACCESS TO LADY JUSTICE DUE TO THEIR STATUS IN LIFE .

    It is indeed appalling that many Lawyers in St. Vincent & Other Countries in the
    Region are completely Blind to this Fact . They prefer to bamboozle the General
    Public , and settling Political scores . Part 1.

  3. Part 2 .

    I am reminded of a very well know adage :

    ” THERE IS NONE SO BLIND AS THOSE WHO REFUSE TO SEE ” .

    It should be obvious to all that having the Caribbean Court of Justice as the Final Court
    in the Region , would make Justice in the Region accessible to ALL the People in the
    Region regardless of whether they are Wealthy or Poor . In the famous or infamous
    Myrie Case , the Court travelled to both Jamaica & Barbados . I cite this to illustrate
    the point that ALL Persons in this matter were not inconvenient in having access to the
    Court .

    Yes , I am well aware of the fact that the Myrie Case was in the Original Jurisdiction of
    the Caribbean Court of Justice . However there is no reason why the Court cannot sit in Countries that have signed on to the Caribbean Court of Justice .

    It is true that a former very well known Person in SVG , won a case by going to the Privy
    Council . It is interesting that this occured because he had the money to go to England
    and hire a Law Firm to represent him in the Privy Council . This then begs the Question :

    HOW MANY PERSONS IN THE REGION WHOSE COUNTRIES ARE NOT

    MEMBERS OF THE CARIBBEAN COURT OF JUSTICE HAVE EASY ACCESS

    TO THE PRIVY COUNCIL ?????

    IS IT FAIR TO THE PEOPLE IN THE REGION WHOSE GOVERNMENTS PREFER

    TO HAVE THE PRIVY COUNCIL , AS THEIR FINAL COURT ????

    Whether WE like it or not , the Privy Council , is only accessible to those who are wealthy
    surely then the Privy Council cannot be considered as being accessible to ALL PERSONS in the Region .

    It is indeed unfortunate that many in the Region believe that the Judges on the Caribbean
    can be bought . They are unaware of this fact :

    THE JUDGES ON THE CARIBBEAN COURT , ARE NOT DIRECTLY PAID BY THE

    GOVERNMENTS IN THE REGION WHO DEPOSIT MONEY IN A BANK .

    THE MEMBERS OF THE COURT GET THEIR SALARIES FROM THAT BANK .

    THEREFORE THE JUDGES ARE INSULATED FROM BEING INFLUENCED BY

    THE POLITICIANS IN THE REGION .

    Some Governments who have signed on to the Caribbean Court of Justice , have been on the losing side of decisions made by the Caribbean Court of Justice . As far as I am aware they have not threatened or contemplated removing from the Caribbean Court of
    Justice .

    Those in the Region who staunchly support the Privy Council also fail to take into consideration the stark fact that the Members of the Privy Council in England are totally
    ignorant of the norms of the People in this Region . Yet they are being championed by those who relish playing Political Football .

    Interestingly there were over 350 judges from around the World , who recently attended
    a Conference in Vienna , Austria , sponsored by the United Nations . At the end of the
    Conference , 10 Judges were selected to be on a Board , dealing with Training etc . The
    first name that was called wathoses the current President of the Caribbean Court of Justice .

    This in my opinion tangibly illustrates the high regard that People , hold for the work of
    the Caribbean Court of Justice , and the Judges on the Court . This apparently , matters
    little to those who relish playing Political Football . People in the Region need to understand that being in the Opposition does not mean that its members need to oppose
    everything that Governments in the Region want to do .

  4. Copy that Sir. Let them continue to pour large amount of cash into the Privy Council coffers, all those funds could have stayed in the Caribbean. Strengthening a powerful nation.

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