Although he is in support of Grenada acceding to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court, Labour Representative in the Senate, Andre Lewis has expressed concerns with the manner in which the island is attempting to rush into it.
Speaking on the CCJ Bill at the sitting of the Upper House at Parliament Building at Mt. Wheldale last Friday, Sen. Lewis said the people have been expressing these concerns and they need to be addressed before the country decides to move fully in the direction of the CCJ.
“I would want to boldly say that the time has come, it is long overdue for us in the region to take our own destiny in our hands and the CCJ is one of it. The issue for me is that I am feeling rushed”, he told fellow legislators.
Andre questioned the expeditiousness in which the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister in pushing forward the CCJ as the final appellate court for Grenada.
“There are a number of concerns outside there and we need to face it frontally. In other words, we must not view those concerns as opposition but as genuine concerns, just as how you have reached that journey where most people feel convinced, and I am convinced, I do not need to be sold on the CCJ but I am not representing myself only, I am not representing me…I feel very rushed”, he said.
“The question is – why the haste? I feel that haste, I honestly (do) colleagues, I honestly feel that haste. I don’t have an answer but I feel that haste and I hear the argument about the local courts and we can address it as we go forward … but the concern that I have and a number of us have is that once we achieve that objective of the CCJ, these matters will be forgotten, these matters would be forgotten,” he added.
According to the TUC boss, the local issues affecting the local man should first be addressed because they can easily be forgotten after accession to the CCJ.
Lewis told the Upper House: “The man from the back of La Fillete is very much more concerned about access to the Magistrate level. The bulk of our people, how many cases, we would have liked to take to the Privy Council and we can’t, it pales into comparison at the level of the Magistrate level.
“…I am for the CCJ but one has not yet gotten (the) feel that the powers-that-be – yes some attempts have been made – but the genuine effort or the prioritising of that issue has reached that level to address the access to the mass of our people.
“And therefore, we would like to propose that in furtherance of going to the CCJ and that is all we are saying, we feel rushed – it does not have to be voted upon right now. Let us give ourselves a timeline, let us demonstrate to the mass of our people that we are committing the resources, the necessary resources to addressing the local issues.
“I’m saying yes to the CCJ but I am a negotiator, I am a Trade Unionist and we all know that when promises are being made that yes these matters that you raised are important but if you give us that bligh we would come back and address it…the question would arise, why the rush, why the haste?
Lewis noted that if government can explain that accession to the CCJ has to be done at a particular deadline at a particular time, he would jump on the wagon and push forward the CCJ agenda.
“Is it that we must do something by the deadline? So for instance, in our earlier debates in this house and in the other place, because we are under the Structural Adjustment Programme and we had to meet certain legislative deadlines, it was said that we had to do certain things by X or Y times and therefore we all threw our hands up in the air and said yes, although there are short comings but we have a bigger obligation to meet some international commitments and let us rush along”, he said.
“…If we could be told that this must be done before the end of the year, then I would be one of the leading voices that would go out there for the bigger picture and say let’s do it now, we are saying yes to the CCJ, don’t get us wrong…” he added.
One of the reasons being put forward for signing onto the CCJ by the promoters is the need to break the shackles of colonialism that the Privy Council puts on Grenada.
Lewis believes that if it were to be looked at in terms of a colonialism point of view, there are a number of things that need to be changed first before accession to the CCJ.
He pointed a finger at the wearing of wigs in Parliament by both the Speaker of the House of Representative and the President of the Senate.
“We can make a statement from today that we are not wearing the wig. In other words, anti-colonialism. There are small measures that we can take and so I look at you and I say yes Deputy President, I didn’t see the wig and that’s good because one of the hallmarks…I am anti-colonialist but that’s not the major matter for me but…the sir this and sir that needs to be addressed and there are certain basic steps that we can take,” he remarked.
Lewis warned that if the people are to be convinced in the upcoming referendum to move to the CCJ then their concerns must be addressed.
“…One of the most serious calypsos that I’ve heard, very deep, my view that advances the thinking of the general public was Rootsman Kelly about the CCJ. In my view, it’s my view, he addressed the issues…and we have not addressed them frontally in my view and we as leaders must take responsibility”, he told the sitting.
“If only within the Labour Movement because we have to be outside there either advocating for or against because we must be part and I am calling on the wider community, the different organisations to be part of that debate but we must do it on the basis of respect for each other’s view and to get us along the line, not by condemning those who say well we have concerns, these are valid concerns…”, he said.