The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has reserved a decision in its Original Jurisdiction, concerning preliminary issues arising in the case brought against Trinidad and Tobago by David Bain of Concord, St. John.
The matter, which was heard by five Court of Appeal judges via video conferencing from the St. George’s High Court, arose after the Grenadian national, who is also a United States citizen, was denied entry into the twin-island republic in December 2017.
Bain, who was at the time traveling to the neighbouring island to attend a wedding, retained the services of Attorney-at-Law Ruggles Ferguson to seek legal redress at the level of the CCJ.
He became the first Grenadian to be granted leave to commence proceedings in the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ in November 2018.
Bain is seeking a declaration and damages for an alleged breach of his right to freedom of movement within CARICOM as guaranteed by Articles 45 & 46 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (“the Revised Treaty”), following his denial of entry into Trinidad & Tobago on December 14, 2017 on board a LIAT flight from Grenada.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY following Tuesday’s video conferencing, Attorney Ferguson noted that his client “went down there (Trinidad) on the late flight and arrived sometime after midnight and was sent back the following morning on the 5.45 a.m flight.”
According to the attorney, Bain was denied entry into the twin island republic because “of allegations that he was convicted of drug offences in the United States, which he denied…”.
“So, they sent him back…but they raised the issue that he is not a person entitled to freedom of movement stipulated (in the Treaty of Chaguaramas) because at the material time when he entered Trinidad, he was travelling on a US passport”, he said.
“Apart from everything during the period of questioning, he told them that he was a Grenadian national…and he produced his national identification card and driver’s license, which both showed that his place of birth was Grenada,” he added.
However, the authorities in Trinidad & Tobago contended that at the material time, Bain was not entitled to the privileges and protections afforded CARICOM nationals under the Revised Treaty, since he was travelling on a United States passport and presented, upon entry, a completed immigration form acknowledging United States citizenship.
When the matter came up for case management in February, CARICOM was asked to address, in its written submissions, the status of the Caribbean Community Travel Treaty (CARIPASS) and the appropriate travel documentation to be presented by Caribbean Community nationals to immigration/border control in member states for the purposes of invoking the right to freedom of movement.
The issues to be decided upon are:
(1). Whether Bain waived his rights to be treated as a Caribbean Community national by the immigration authorities of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago on his presentation of a completed immigration form acknowledging citizenship of the United States of America along with a valid United States of America passport and thereby invoking citizenship of the United States of America;
(2). Whether it would make a difference in the establishment of any such waiver if Bain’s disclosure of his Grenadian citizenship occurred before or after the decision was made by the immigration authorities to deny Bain entry into Trinidad & Tobago.
(3). Whether the presentation by Bain of his Grenada National Identification Card and his Driver’s Licence was sufficient to conclusively determine his Grenadian citizenship and thereby entitle him to be treated by the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago as a national of a Caribbean Community member state.
Presiding over Tuesday’s video conferencing were Justices Adrian Saunders, Jacob Wit, David Hayton, Nancy Anderson and Andrew Burgess.
Bain was represented by Ruggles Ferguson, Sabina Gibbs and Anyika Johnson-Cassone of Ciboney Chambers; and Trinidad & Tobago by attorneys Rishi P.A. Dass, Sasha Sukhram and Sean Julien.
If the CCJ rules on any of the preliminary issues in a manner favourable to Bain, the matter will proceed to a full trial to determine whether his right to freedom of movement within CARICOM was breached and, if so, his entitlement to damages.
An adverse ruling to Bain on all the preliminary issues will bring an end to the matter.
The preliminary issues identified are being ventilated for the first time since the establishment of the court in April 2005.