Former Antigua and Barbuda attorney general, Queen Counsel Justin Simon is calling on Caribbean countries that have not yet made the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) their final court to hold a simultaneously referendum on the matter.
Simon said referendums had been held unsuccessfully in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda describing the outcome as “an unfortunate thing.
“The problem we face is that we cannot change that provision in the Constitution. It is what we call an entrenched clause which demands that there must be a two-thirds majority and to change that you must also have a two-thirds majority in a referendum.
“So we are faced with that obstacle and …that is one of the things that I said when we went into the referendum in Antigua and Barbuda that it should be a regional collective effort. Not just Antigua alone going, not just St. Vincent and the Grenadines going.
“I think all of the Caribbean territories should seek to go together,” he said, adding “it is a common purpose and the persons or electorate in all the territories will understand and appreciate and they would not think as there was some thought along those lines in Antigua that it is because it is something which is beneficial to the politicians”.
The CCJ was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court and while most of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are signatories to its original Jurisdiction, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the Court that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.
The Dominican born jurist said that the CCJ comprises some of the most brilliant legal minds in the region and it was disappointing that many countries were still not fully on board.
“I am for the CCJ. It is a Caribbean court made up mostly of Caribbean jurists and I think it is important for the development of our Caribbean jurisprudence that that court be the final court for the entire Caribbean.
“It is unfortunate and it really should not continue for any length of time that we have some with the Privy Council and some with the CCJ because that is going to create possibly the divergence in respect of legal development,” said Simon, who served as attorney general in Antigua and Barbuda from 2004-2014.
He said Dominica is the only Caribbean country on attaining political independence from Britain had “not only become a Republic… the constitution provision allowed for an agreement to move away from the Privy Council”.
He said in the other territories there’s need for a referendum “and it is a two-thirds majority that must be attained.
“The thing about a referendum is that persons normally vote to stay where they are,” he added.