BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron, a native of St. Kitts and Nevis, has praised the accomplishments of the Trinidad-based court, which was established in 2005 to replace the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the region’s final court and to function as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.
Speaking at the Prime Minister’s New Year’s Gala on January 5, at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, Sir Dennis said that the CCJ “is an important symbol of regional unity.”
“It is the original jurisdiction that is very relevant to our discussions this evening, and every member state is part of its operations including St. Kitts and Nevis,” he said.
Sir Dennis said that the CCJ has many successes in its Original Jurisdiction, including but not limited to “responding to complaints from a cement manufacturer in Trinidad to compel the Guyanese government to impose the agreed tariffs on extra-regional cement imports from the Dominican Republic in the case Trinidad Cement Limited and TCL Guyana Incorporated v Guyana; complaints from CARICOM manufacturers of wheat products to compel the Suriname Government to impose tariffs on extra-regional imports from the Netherlands in Hummingbird Rice Mills Ltd v Suriname; and I suppose the most well-known case establishing and enforcing the right of CARICOM citizens to hassle-free travel within the region in the Shanique Myrie v Barbados.”
While all CARICOM Member States are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, only four CARICOM Member States, namely Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Dominica have signed on for the Court to be its final court of appeal on civil and criminal matters.
Sir Dennis has often made a passionate appeal for more CARICOM Member States to join the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, which would replace the London-based Privy Council. This, however, for many States requires a referendum.
Recently, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada held a referendum on the CCJ on November 6, 2018, and the people voted to remain with the Privy Council. It was Grenada’s second referendum.
The arguments will linger for a long time: Should all Member States of CARICOM have the CCJ as their final Court of Appeal and will more choose to remain with the Privy Council, like Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, as their final appellate court?