The leader of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, has rejected suggestions that he should instruct supporters to vote for Antigua and Barbuda replacing the London-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court.
A joint statement issued following talks between Attorney General Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin and Lovell, noted that the UPP leader had instead “insisted that there should be a non-political education process and persons think independently and focus on the issues presented”.
Lovell is reported to have told the Attorney General that from a personal standpoint, he supports the move towards the CCJ becoming the final appellate court.
“The CCJ is part of the process of Caribbean self-determination and constitutional decolonization. I support the CCJ as I supported the move towards political Independence and CXC (Caribbean Examination Council) examinations,” he said.
Antigua and Barbuda will hold a referendum on November 6 in a bid to join Barbados, Dominica, Belize and Guyana that have all made the Trinidad-based CCJ that was established in 2001to replace the Privy Council, it final court.
The CCJ also functions as an internal tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.
Lovell reiterated that the UPP believes that a wider discussion on constitutional reform which would consider other constitutional amendments to be put before the public, would have been more effective. However, despite the difference in approach, he would not vote against the CCJ.
But Benjamin agreed that the matter is of grave national importance and expressed his desire for a position from the main opposition party and accepted that a nonpartisan approach would be best suited at this time.
“The move towards the CCJ as the final court for Antigua and Barbuda is true testimony of the value we place on the full utilization of our regionally honed human resources and in keeping with the continued thrust towards complete self-determination as a region,” Benjamin said,, adding that it “is imperative that we reduce our reliance on institutions that consider us a burden and move towards a most cost effective, timelier appellant system of justice”.
The joint statement noted that both Benjamin and Lovell “agreed that there is a need for citizens of Antigua and Barbuda to think independently. This referendum would be of a historic nature, being the first time the country has taken this important step.
“Both concurred that no matter who is in power, the Caribbean Court of Justice will serve the people of the nation,” the statement noted.
The Antigua and Barbuda government has already announced a “a non-stop campaign” ahead of the referendum, and prior to the meeting, Benjamin had described the position adopted by Lovell as irresponsible.
“A leader can’t sit back and make those type of statements. A leader must take the lead and make his followers follow. Convince them. That sort of statement…in my view …is made by a leader, who really requires a particular result. That is not leadership.”
Last week, former attorney general, Justin Simon, who served in the same government as Lovell, called on the electorate to put aside partisan politics, and view the referendum the collective interest of the country.
“This is what I will be pushing on the trail to promote the CCJ. I am not saying that people will not have their political difference, but let us sink them in respect to this particular cause,” Simon said during an interview on state media.
Meanwhile, the committee of stakeholders charged with executing the educational campaign for the CCJ, says it will to intensify its activities shortly.
The committee is headed by Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry and it says it plans “to take a multi-level approach in its education program, capturing the interest and concerns of the general public.
“The stakeholders’ committee will be unswerving in its commitment to ensuring that the public is made fully aware of its activities as soon as they are finalized,” it said in a statement.
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