Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell made a plea to tertiary students on the island to support the move towards the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) instead of continuing with the London-based Privy Council.
Dr. Mitchell attended an interactive session last week hosted by the CCJ Advisory Committee at the T. A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) where former CCJ President, Justice Sir Dennis Byron was the guest speaker.
In addressing the students, the Grenadian leader said that a vote in support of the CCJ in the upcoming November 6 referendum will be a vote for the future of the country.
He reiterated that there is nothing political about acceding to the CCJ as the final appellate court.
“It is unfortunate that when issues of national importance are before us, sometimes petty political interests come into play. The CCJ is above and beyond partisan political interests.
This is not an NNP issue, it is not an NDC issue, this is a national issue. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different, this is about you, it’s about your future,” he remarked.
The Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) government has started a public education exercise to try and woo the electorate to give it the required two-thirds vote in the referendum to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ as the final appellate court in the jurisdiction.
Grenadians rejected the CCJ bill almost two years ago in the first-ever referendum to be held since the island attained its independence from Great Britain on February 7, 1974.
Dr. Mitchell made a plea for the active engagement of the nation’s youth in matters pertaining to the CCJ.
“The CCJ is not just about this period in our history, it’s about the future of the country. That is why I believe it’s necessary for you to be actively involved in what this means and how it affects your future, how what is now our final court is affecting your present and your future”, he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell expressed confidence in the population to make the right decision to vote for the CCJ and for the Trinidad-based court to adequately dispense justice for citizens.
“I am convinced that we are mature enough, we are capable enough and we are clear about what is best for us. I am clear that we have the quality of jurists and personnel within our region that we should as a Caribbean people have our own final court in our hands”, he told the students.
In addressing the college students, Sir Dennis encouraged them to begin envisioning a world where they are the leaders.
He recalled that as a young man, he looked forward to the day when the region would have control of the judiciary.
Opting for an interactive approach, Sir Dennis addressed questions relating to the impartiality of the court, the role of the CCJ in spearheading reform in the judicial process, equal access to justice and ensuring that justice is equitable for all.
On the subject of bias and impartiality, the former CCJ boss noted that if there is an appearance of bias, not even actual bias, it is the duty of the judge to recuse himself/herself from the case.
Regarding concerns about judgments against government, he noted that several orders have been made against regional governments and in all cases, these have been honoured.
In addition to its mission to promote and protect the rule of law as a court of final appeal, the CCJ has also played a critical role in spearheading reform in the judicial process.
In Grenada itself, the CCJ assisted with the design of a system to address a serious backlog in civil cases which was successfully implemented over an 18-month period, resulting in the total elimination of the backlog.
Sir Dennis said the CCJ has proven that it is responsive to the needs of the society and is willing to take action that will have a direct impact on the lives of the people.
“We have already demonstrated in Grenada that practical problems that affect the society, we can remedy them immediately and be available for immediate action to support improvements in the way justice is done”, he added.
A number of public awareness activities are being held by the Advisory body in the run-up to the referendum.