Do we need a Caribbean Court of Justice?
Stabroek News
January 3, 2002

Dear Editor,

I wish to refer to an article in the Chronicle dated 15.12.01 with the caption, 'Guyana's legal system will benefit from CCJ - A.G. Singh.' I am wondering if Mr Singh is behind the times when he was reported as mentioning that a decision was taken at the meeting he attended to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). This decision was taken a long time ago, and a building was also identified for the CCJ in Trinidad.

I knew long before that it was proposed that the CCJ open in October 2002, because I attended a panel discussion in Trinidad with the then Minister Ramesh L Maharaj and others.

Why do we need a CCJ? Don't we have trust in our own courts? Once we allow the courts to do their job in an honest, free and fair way without political interference or directives from anyone in high office, then we do not need the CCJ.

On the other hand, if we had a judiciary which was partial, then definitely we would need a CCJ.

What Mr Singh should inform the public about is as follows: (1) Caricom governments have agreed that before the CCJ opens its doors, five years of funding must be in place. The Trust Fund will also be established to defray the recurrent costs of the court. Thereafter any member state that does not meet its financial obligation will be denied access to the services of the court.

(2) A Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission will appoint the judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

No government will be able to appoint or dismiss judges.

Judges can only be dismissed on the recommendation of a special tribunal that will advise the commission. Let us not forget that the Treaty of Chaguaramas has existed far more than 26 years without a court. What is all the fuss now about a Caribbean court to interpret and apply the treaty?

I also wish to inform the public that the staff of the CCJ will only come from Trinidad.

Finally, Mr Singh, can the Caribbean Court of Justice reverse decisions made by the local courts and if so, will the government concerned accept the results and act in good faith?

Yours faithfully

Surendra Persaud

General Secretary (ag)

Guyana Public Service Union

Editor's note

The Caribbean Court of Justice will have an original jurisdiction and an appellate jurisdiction. Its original jurisdiction is absolutely vital to the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy as the court will deal with disputes arising out of the treaties between member states (such as the one that recently arose between Barbados and Trinidad) or between investors and member states.

The court will also have an appellate jurisdiction to which member states can subscribe. That will enable it to deal with appeals from the courts in the various member territories. That must be seen in the context of the fact that appeals lie from all three courts to the Privy Council (except Guyana - we abolished appeals to the Privy Council in l970) and the Caribbean Court is seen as a replacement.

We fully support the idea of appealing to a Caribbean Court of Justice. Indeed, several lawyers here including Mr Miles Fitzpatrick S.C. and Mr David de Caires have supported the idea of a Caribbean Court of Appeal since l970 as the proper replacement for the Privy council and to avoid the pressures, actual or implicit, that can be exerted on final courts in small domestic jurisdictions.