(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says while signing on to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is a critical issue, it is not a priority for his Government at this time.
“Unfortunately, we have a lot of other issues that we are dealing with right now. And so, while it is a critical issue, it is not one of our priority issues at this particular moment,” Chastanet told journalists yesterday on the final day of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.
The CCJ, which was established in 2003, is headquartered in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
Up 2015, only four countries — Guyana, Barbados, Belize, and Dominica — had joined the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ.
Two countries — Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada — later initiated steps to be a part of the CCJ, while the two largest English-speaking countries — Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, which were in the forefront of the establishment of the regional court — are yet to make it their final court.
There are 15 full member states, five associates, and eight observers of Caricom.
Chastanet, who did not give a time frame for joining the CCJ, noted that it is something that his Government is looking at.
“Unfortunately, we had a Government that was in office with a 16-1 and 14-3 majority, which means that they could have proceeded with it in those days,” Chastanet stated.
“And so, it is something that we are looking at. And hopefully it can become a bigger priority, but right now, turning around our economy [and] dealing with the unemployment problem are the things that are consuming my Government’s time.”
On Wednesday during the swearing-in ceremony of Justice Adrian Saunders, who took over from Sir Dennis Byron as CCJ president, Sir Dennis expressed disappointment with the number of countries that have made the CCJ their final court.
“When I took up the position just about seven years ago, I started with the perhaps naive expectations that during my tenure all remaining states would have accomplished the abolition of the Privy Council and establish the CCJ as the final appellate court,” he said.
“I have advocated that apart from the delivery of service to the region in improving access to justice, this could be a symbolic step in closing the circle of our independence, a significant step in the decades-long process of completing decolonisation and to sign onto the Caribbean Court with Caribbean judges would share the values, customs, and beliefs of the Caribbean people in developing a Caribbean jurisprudence,” he said. “I just hoped that during my tenure of duty we would have moved to a closer realisation of those dreams.”
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who also addressed the swearing-in ceremony, did not address the issue of Jamaica joining the court.
During the three-day conference, a number of critical issues relating to the region were discussed. Among them were the economic and social advancement of Caricom member countries.