The recent events in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis have far-reaching implications and bearings on the issue of Constitutional Reform in Grenada especially the contentious issue of term limits for the Prime Minister and reducing the powers of the Prime Minister.
The outgoing Prime Minister of St. Kitts, Dr. Denzil Douglas would have seriously dented his legacy by what transpired in his homeland in his final term in office as he desperately tried to create history by becoming the first regional leader to win five consecutive terms with his St. Kitts Labour Party.
The power hungry Douglas cannot hide behind the incompetence of the Supervisor of Elections for the charade and sham that attracted worldwide attention following Monday’s general elections in which the people of St. Kitts and Nevis had to wait for more than 12 hours after the close of poll to know who were elected to govern them.
It is the norm in the Caribbean for the winners of national polls to be known within three to four hours after the closing of polling stations.
And Dr. Douglas who served for 20 years as Prime Minister would have blemished his legacy by the kind of open defiance showed over the final ruling handed down by the British Privy Council in London on the constituency boundaries to be used for Monday’s poll in the face of allegations that attempts were being made to steal the election by the ruling party through manipulation of the electoral process.
As far as THE NEW TODAY is concerned the St. Kitts situation has strengthened our resolve that the region is not yet ready to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) its final appellate court instead of the Privy Council.
This newspaper has more than credible evidence about the kinds of underhand deals that take place at times among certain unscrupulous members of the judiciary and sitting Prime Ministers.
In Grenada itself, a sitting judge was caught in the open trying to recruit candidates for the New National Party (NNP) of current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Could anyone with a case against Dr. Mitchell honestly expect to go before that particular judge and get justice?
A retired Chief Magistrate was literally chased out of office after she failed to carry out orders to cut short the Preliminary Inquiry into a matter involving a local journalist and Prime Minister Mitchell and violate court procedures and send the matter straight to the high court for hearing.
The same Magistrate, who stood her ground and resisted attempts at political interference, did not bow to pressure being brought on her to remove a Magistrate from the bench in Grenville and install a particular Magistrate to take care of a case that the State had brought against former Leader of the Opposition, Michael Baptiste.
In another instance, a judge sitting at the level of the Court of Appeal was heard to make the remarks that he had to rule in favour of a certain Caribbean Prime Minister because that leader was losing too much cases in court and this was not a good thing.
And that Court of Appeal judge was a cousin of that particular Prime Minister. So The NEW TODAY hope that the people get the message about how some judicial decisions are handed down at times in this region that is seeking to block appeals to the Privy Council – a very independent body.
It should not be misconstrued as if there are not good and decent judges in the region who are above political manipulations.
But the signs are worrying in our part of the world because of the mounting evidence of interference and meddling by the political directorate in many judicial cases.
The late Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Raphael Fletcher, who was a great respecter of truth told the nation that the former Court of Appeal Judge, Sir Brian Alleyne of Dominica was often ridiculed by Prime Minister Mitchell inside the Cabinet Room whenever he delivered a ruling against the NNP regime.
If the people want further evidence of why our system is surrounded by suspicion then take a look at the current matter involving local attorney-at-law, Brenda Wardally-Beaumont who would have to appear before a Disciplinary Panel of her peers to answer allegations of improper behaviour as an officer of the court.
Why did it have to take a judge from London to come down here and deliver such a ruling that the Registrar of the Supreme Court would have to take the necessary steps to implement?
The Grenada Bar Association (GBA) is fully aware of the recalcitrant behaviour of some local attorneys-at-law who cannot account for client funds and is not doing anything to address the matter.
The Executive members of GBA have easy access to the court records about the attorney-at-law who violated the order of former high court judge, Justice Margaret Mohammed on payments to be made in a dispute brought before the court concerning a property in the Westerhall area.
However, the same bar was quick off the mark to move against Attorney-at-law, Kenroy Samuel of Antigua to get him struck off the roll of lawyers allowed to practice in Grenada for failing to disclose when he was admitted that he had been disbarred from practicing law in New York.
The local bar is demonstrating too much double standards. The people of Grenada should reject efforts that are being made to hoodwink them into moving away from the Privy Council in London and to usher in a new so-called era of jurisprudence with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
THE NEW TODAY is calling on Grenadians to vote “NO” overwhelmingly against the CCJ for the time being at the upcoming Referendum as part of the agenda for Constitutional Reform.
There is nothing wrong with the CCJ in principle as a final appellate court in the region but the much bigger picture must be seen in the contest of the important question – have our politicians behaved in such a manner that the ordinary man and woman can feel secure and have the confidence needed in a court in this region to be so designated as the final arbiter of their matters?