At least one legal mind has called for the postponement of the November 6 referendum poll, labeling the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Bill in its present form as being “deeply flawed.”
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY last week Tuesday, outspoken Attorney-at-Law Jerry Edwin, heavily criticised the CCJ Bill and expressed the view that the referendum should be postponed because if it receives a ‘yes vote’ on November 6, it will “undoubtedly invite constitutional crisis” in the country.
“I fully support Grenada acceding to the CCJ, but the bill that will get us there invites constitutional crisis in the country”, he said, adding that the Bill was rushed by the authorities and “is deeply flawed…there is no doubt about it…”.
“… The Bill as it is currently written says that once Grenada is in the CCJ, we will accept all amendments and protocols to the CCJ agreement, however, the Bill says that we will adopt such agreements and protocols, all amendments to the CCJ by the very course that got us in to the CCJ, which is by constitutional amendment”, the attorney said.
“This means every time the leaders make a change to the CCJ agreement, Grenada must have a constitutional amendment,” he added.
Another contentious issue he alluded to was the fact that CCJ Bill was taking the same position of the British Privy Council, pursuant to Section 37 of the Grenada Constitution, that questions of political appointments would not be heard by it.
“Why would the Grenada Government, touting the local jurisprudence to be developed by the CCJ (and) the fact that it is time that we mature and leave the Privy Council, why would they want to adopt the same position as the Privy Council with respect to political appointments?” Edwin questioned.
“It’s like they are following lock-step what the colonial masters in England have done despite the rhetoric,” he quipped.
Attorney Edwin contented that “political questions about who should be appointed (and) whether there are any questions about who should be appointed to serve in our Parliament are questions to be heard in our highest court (and) there is no reason why the CCJ should not hear it”.
“The Privy Council decided not to hear it because remember, we are an independent country. The Privy Council in its wisdom correctly said we are not going to be involved in political questions involving Caribbean people…you pick your political leaders, you are responsible for them”, he said.
Edwin went on: “…I don’t think the CCJ being a court from the Caribbean, understanding Caribbean culture and the need for us to have a mature jurisprudence should develop the same position as the Privy Council.
“The Bill in Grenada is written in such a way to take the same position as the Privy Council. This is wrong,” he declared.
According to the attorney, of even greater concern, is that the lawmakers have entrenched the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ in the Bill, however, “the same Bill fails miserably, unfortunately, to entrench the independence of judges.”
He said while the “advocates of the CCJ bill shout loudly that politicians are not involved (and) that it’s the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission that appoints the judges and there is independence of the judiciary, the bill does not entrench that.
“We need to entrench the independence of the judges (in the Bill) to protect them from outside interference and unfortunately the bill does not do that. I am not saying there is anything sinister, it could be an oversight and because of the narrowness of the debate, they overlooked it and there are many other things that were overlooked”, he charged.
Attorney Edwin also identified another critical issue to be addressed as salaries paid to judges.
He said that “right now salaries being paid to judges must be approved by the CCJ Heads of Governments” and suggested that “this is not independence of the judiciary”.
The attorney contended that there are a lot of things that needed to be fixed before any referendum can take place in Grenada on trying to make the CCJ the final appellate court in the jurisdiction.