'Landmark' summit in Guyana
July 10, 2002
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This is all the more commendable when it is realised that they had to press ahead with an agenda of some very significant and pressing issues in a most undesirable political climate.
How very unhelpful was that climate, manifested itself with an illegal anti-government protest that led to the invasion of the Office of the President, Bharrat Jagdeo, with deaths, injuries, arson and assaults on business premises and innocent people.
In the circumstances, as host of the summit, President Jagdeo himself deserves to be commended for staying the course with his Community colleagues, and not to be distracted by the unexpected display of political rebellion that was to be subsequently denounced by the Community leaders in an end-of-conference statement on the "Guyana situation".
Despite some pre-summit political criticisms of the draft agenda circulated by the CARICOM Secretariat, and even comments by some Prime Ministers, the agenda remained largely as circulated.
The difference was really in how it was dealt with, a significant feature being the extended caucus sessions of heads.
For the Prime Minister of St, Kitts and Nevis, Denzil Douglas, who gave what President Jagdeo described as "a most comprehensive and informative overview" of the serious nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean region, the 23rd summit in Georgetown was a "landmark" event for "concrete" decisions taken.
He placed high on his list the agreement, finally, to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) with original or non-appellate jurisdiction in dealing with disputes arising from interpretation of the significantly revised CARICOM Treaty.
An extension of this decision was the summit's mandate for the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to raise US$100 million on the regional/international money market to ensure the financial sustainability of the CCJ and to independently administer a Trust Fund from which money would be made available for governments to contribute to the functioning of the Court.
Barbados has played a consistently key role in advancing the arrangements for what is expected to be, eventually, a court with both an original and appellate jurisdiction for all member states of the Community.
Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Mia Mottley, who succeeded now Chief Justice Sir David Simmons, as chairperson of the CCJ's Preparatory Committee, was most "consistent in vigorously moving the process forward", according to one top Community official.
The implementation process of the summit will now be carefully monitored.
(Reprinted, courtesy of yesterday's 'Daily Nation' of Barbados)