Trinidad Parliament to debate CCJ move next year

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The Trinidad and Tobago government says it will table legislation next year seeking to make the Caribbean Court of Justice, (CCJ), the island’s final court, replacing the London-based Privy Council.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking at a political meeting of his ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) on Sunday night, said that his administration would bring a motion to Parliament seeking to make the Trinidad-based court the island’s final court given that a significant number of Trinidad and Tobago nationals are unable to access the Privy Council.

“We going to the Parliament by way of motion to ask the people’s representatives, who represent people in this country, 99 per cent of them who can’t set foot in the Privy Council, the motion will go to the Parliament at the appropriate time in 2019 asking the parliamentarians…to vote in support of the Caribbean Court of Justice,’ Rowley said.

Rowley said while he has no way of knowing how the government legislators would vote on the motion, he was nonetheless giving the country the “assurance that every PNM member in the parliament in Trinidad and Tobago will vote in support of making the Caribbean Court of Justice our final court”.

The CCJ, established in 2001 by regional government, has both an Original and Appela5te jurisdiction.

But while most of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have signed on to the Original jurisdiction, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana are signatories to the Appellate jurisdiction of the court that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised treaty governing the regional integration movement.

In November 2014, then prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar told Parliament that Trinidad and Tobago’s move to replace the Privy Council “is a matter that ought to be put to a referendum at the appropriate time”.

Persad Bissessar, who led the coalition people’s Partnership government between 2010-15, said then that the abolition of the Privy Council and its replacement with the CCJ would form part of a package of constitutional reform now being considered by her administration.

“The CCJ is a matter that ought to be decided by the people. As far as the constitutional reform is concerned, the issue of a referendum is part of the package. This is a matter that ought to be put to a referendum at the appropriate time.

“Yes, in law we do not have any provision for a referendum. But when we had the Constitutional Reform Commission, this was one of their recommendations. And such matters will be taken on board,” she added.

In April, 2012, Persad Bissessar blanked a call from the Congress of the People (COP), the  second biggest partner in her coalition administration for a referendum ahead of any move to replace the Privy Council.

In a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, Persad Bissessar, who is now the Opposition Leader, said that as regards the CCJ, “such matters are ideally suited for discussion at the level of the cabinet”

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