Grenadian Legislators in the Lower House of Parliament have given their blessings to the country joining the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court.
Thirteen Members of the House who were present at last week Tuesday’s sitting, approved the passage of the Constitution Bill relating to the CCJ which will form part of the Constitution Reform process.
The Bill, entitled Constitution of Grenada, Caribbean Court of Justice and other Justice-Related Matters (Amendment) Bill, 2015, will see Grenada breaking away from the British Privy Council, and have all of its appeal cases brought before the CCJ.
Legal Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod who presented the Bill advised the House that in order for Grenada to be under the jurisdiction of the final appellate court there has to be a constitutional amendment.
Minister Nimrod described the CCJ as a “home-grown court” where its operators know and understand the history, culture and tradition of the people they serve.
He said it is extremely costly to access services at the Privy Council, adding that this is where, sometimes, justice is being denied as many people do not have the resources.
“We know, as a people that our interest will be better served if we have our own people… determining our destiny,” he told Parliament.
Minister Nimrod dismissed the argument put forward in some quarters that the CCJ can be politically influenced.
He said this is further from the truth as there are no avenues where there can be political interference in the court.
The Legal Affairs Minister who is a Lawyer by profession, also spoke with confidence of the competence of the Caribbean Justices.
He said the facts will show that some of the most eminent Jurists in the region sit on the Privy Council.
The senior Government Minister also spoke of the financial soundness of the CCJ.
He indicated that it has a one hundred million dollars trust fund that used six million dollars each year from interest to finance its operations.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who contributed to the debate also addressed the perception of the CCJ having political interference.
Dr. Mitchell said he was Prime Minister when the CCJ was established in 2001, and he never knew who was recommended to be appointed as the Chief Justice along with the other judges.
“The system was far removed from the political directorate,” he quipped.
PM Mitchell said the country cannot be fully independent until it dispenses its own justice.
He said it is now the job of the Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) that is headed by Queen’s Counsel and Constitutional Lawyer, Dr. Francis Alexis to provide further explanation to islanders about how the CCJ functions.
At present only Barbados, Belize, Guyana, and the Commonwealth of Dominica have signed on to the CCJ as its final appellate court.
Minister of Economic Development, Oliver Joseph in his contribution to the debate said it never ceases to amaze him why all the Member-States of the Caribbean are not signatories to the CCJ in its final jurisdiction.
Minister Joseph believes that being a member of the CCJ, the Caribbean Countries will be saying to the rest of the world they are competent and can take care of its own business.
“I will like to see Grenada be a member of the CCJ, and I want to urge all Grenadians to go out there and support this Bill,” he said.
The CCJ was established in 2001 in Trinidad where it is headquartered, and Grenada which is a signatory to the CCJ has already signed on to its original jurisdiction.
The host country is still to sign onto the CCJ as its final appellate court.
The British Privy Council came into being under the Judicial Committee Act of 1833.