Grenadian Voice: Must the CCJ be commended on a simple case?

It is mind-boggling reading, via the internet, the various news headlines regarding the ‘breaking story’ on the so-called unprecedented court hearing by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its appellate jurisdiction and in trying to make sense out of the hot-air of the case, or trying to unfold any disgraceful conspiracy.

The urgent hearing of the application made on Friday 11 May 2018 for leave to appeal and of the prompt judgement delivered by CCJ’s retiring President Sir Dennis Byron, took place on Sunday, 13th May 2018 on the verge of the Thursday, 24 May 2018 general elections in Barbados.

The case involves St. Lucian Professor Eddy David Ventose v. Chief Electoral Officer of the Barbados Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC), and affects the rights of thousands of non-Barbadian resident Commonwealth citizens who are qualified to vote in the elections, but are barred from registering due to a long-standing policy of the EBC.

It is more inquiring when reading the Editorial of The Grenadian Voice newspaper (Vol. 38 No. 20 edition for the week ending Friday May 18, 2018) entitled “CCJ must be commended!”.

The editorial was written by Dr. Wendy C. Grenade who is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, where Ventose (a Professor of Law) also lectures.

Dr. Grenade writes in part, “Importantly this landmark judgement is most timely for Grenada as that country seeks to reopen the conversation on another referendum to facilitate Grenada’s accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, replacing the UK-based Privy Council as Grenada’s highest Court of Appeal.”

She concluded the editorial by stating that the case highlights several benefits of the CCJ, which should be the catalyst of a YES campaign going forward.

Whilst the CCJ could be commended, it must be seen as self-serving for anyone to limit the catalyst or the reason for voting for the CCJ, exclusively to its recent unprecedented hearing on Ventose’s case. Moreover; it would be disingenuous for anyone to capitalise this case without presenting proper and broad perspectives and without seeking to encourage that the background and judgement of the case be ascertained and that the pertinent lessons be adopted for enhancing the local institutions of governance.

Indeed, the Ventose case reaffirms the invaluable role of the judiciary for the rule of law in any society, especially when that role is executed in an independent, expeditious and compelling manner prudently; but no person must be made to believe that access to justice begins and remains with the CCJ and that CCJ monopolises or has all authority on judicial reviews, knowing that the CCJ is (or would be) the third of the established three-tier justice system.

Even if the Ventose case highlights several benefits of the CCJ and that there is nothing wrong with the CCJ, should the Grenadians people blindly vote for the CCJ, without first determining if there is any extraneous and detrimental proposals concealed in the CCJ Bill?

It must be acknowledged and applauded that voting for the CCJ as a regional institution can only be possible in Grenada (and should have also been only possible for all of the other Caricom countries) via a constitutional referendum on the ‘construct and content’ of a CCJ Bill.

Dr. Grenade needs to advocate emphatically for this principle of genuine people’s participation and endorsement for achieving Caribbean Jurisprudence, Caribbean democracy and regional integration; as a reasonable mark of respect for the people, who in-turn will behold themselves as stakeholders.

The Voice newspaper is therefore also challenged for a pronouncement on the question which was posed in the previously internet-circulated article “Grenada Informer: Is Nothing Wrong with the CCJ Bill Also?”, in response to a similar attempt on irresponsibly promoting a yes vote for the CCJ.

As featured in a previous circulated article, “Caricom CCJ Agreement and Grenada CCJ Bill”, it must be of grave concern for the local people as to whether or not the CCJ Bill would realise the entrenching of Caricom’s Chaguaramas Treaty and its CCJ Agreement into the Constitution of Grenada.

By so doing, the Grenadian people may then be marginalised and disadvantaged by having constitutional protection given to large foreign corporations, the ‘more developed nations’ of Caricom and the Citizenship By Investment recipients.

It is imperative that the CCJ Bill be studied within the context of Jamaica’s reservations on its continued participation in the trade obligations of the Revised Treaty and of the sentiments by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart during his political campaigning that the judgements coming out of the CCJ are not reflecting positively on Barbados and thus threatens to abandon the CCJ.

Since Barbados’ 1966 independence and the holding of a number of elections thereafter, an erroneous, unlawful and ultra vires policy of interpretation, which denies qualified citizens from registering to vote in the elections, has been allowed to take precedence to the parliamentary laws and regulations, and nobody was aware and active on this controversial practice before 2018, when individuals of legal fraternity, professional clout and financial status sought judicial relief on their rights to vote – Ventose himself living and working in Barbados from 2006.

It should also be of interest to ascertain the reason/s for the resolve of the EBC on its interpretation of the statutory requirements for registration as an elector; when considering EBC’s refusal to morally accept and apply the virtually same ruling of the two lower courts, High Court and Appeals Court, that non-Barbadian citizens of the British Commonwealth who were legally resident in Barbados at least three years are entitled to vote.

Is it about to protect national sovereignty, despite the provisions of reciprocal rights of Barbadians in other Commonwealth countries and the preaching of regional integration with a common Caricom passport?

A more direct and meaningful application of Ventose’s case for Grenada is in the area of electoral reform and of the policy of interpretation based on the ‘outrageous exercise’ of discretion and determination by the Supervisor of Elections especially in light of the many irregularities which have been alleged to occur in the 13 March 2018 general elections, including the apparent illegal registering and voting of Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth persons, and which have been also highlighted in the internet-circulated article, “Could Grenada’s 2018 Voting be declared Unethical and Illegal?”

Moreover finally, could Dr. Grenade and the other luminaries please also advise the powers-that-be in Grenada to welcome the CCJ’s unprecedented hearing as an excellent instrument or opportunity to induce moral and legal realities in its conscience, so as to cease the blatant constitutional abuses and disobeying of court judgements?

Just to mention two grievances: from February 1974 the people of Carriacou and Petite Martinique are yet distressed about the non-implementation of local government as constitutionally provided, and from April 1983 public officers are being dragged into social and economic deprivation due to an unconstitutional pensions law and related unconscionable policies.

J.K. Roberts

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