ECSC paving the way to a Modern, Efficient Judiciary for the Eastern Caribbean
Last week the body of legal professionals across nine Caribbean countries gathered for a full ceremonial Opening of the Law Year, for the first time since 2016.
The normal routine for the Opening of the Law Year consists of church ceremonies being held simultaneously in the nine member states of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States. This is followed by an official march to the court house, where legal professionals listen to a State of the Court address by Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC), Dame Janice M. Pereira.
The Chief Justice, speaking at the High Court in St Kitts and Nevis on September 18, commented that her address this year held particular significance.
“It has now been two years since I have had the opportunity to address you on the commencement of a new law year. As many of you would know, last year’s activities to mark the opening of the 2017/2018 law year were to take place on the nature isle of the Commonwealth of Dominica. Hurricane Maria intervened, bringing all activities to an abrupt halt,” Pereira recalled. The Chief Justice commented that Hurricanes Maria and Irma “caused death and widespread destruction along the Northern Caribbean Island chain,” and that their effects linger on.
She informed that among the affected member states, the court is now fully operational in Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, after taking some time to find their footing after the storms. However, she noted that this is not the case in Dominica, where, “one year on, court facilities have not been restored to normal operations.”
“It is our hope that all efforts would be made to enable the courts to return to full operations,” she expressed.
“Although disasters may cause the court to bow, disasters should never be allowed to cause the court, and access to justice to become broken. Out of the depth of adversity, there are always positive and enduring lessons learned,” Pereira commented.
She noted that one of the benefits of the ECSC is that it is a regional court, with a framework that allows matters from affected member states to be heard in another member state, and thus help the court manage with relative ease.
The Chief Justice delivered her speech, on the theme “Challenges, Opportunities and Resilience: The ECSC paving the way to a Modern and Efficient Judiciary for the Eastern Caribbean,” through a simultaneous broadcast.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Chief Justice’s speech was preceded by an ecumenical service held at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption.
The homily was delivered by Bishop Gerard County.
“Your presence here at this service, and the fact that it’s celebrated annually, says something about the legal fraternity of St Vincent and the Grenadines. I daresay it speaks positively and highly of you all. I would also like to congratulate you for manifesting openly this belief in God, and acknowledging the supremacy as our constitution so clearly states,” the Bishop began.
He continued, “As Christians our first vocation and primary vocation is precisely to be Christian, and on this we build our other vocation, our secondary vocation, for example our vocation to be parents, your professional vocation to be lawyers, or members of the legal fraternity. Our Christian vocation should shape our world view, and our way of being.”
The Bishop asked that importance be given to the spirit of the law. “I invite you, in accordance with your Christian vocation, to have that sense of the spirit of the law like Jesus, and keeping the creative tension or balance between the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law.”
The religious leader spoke to one side of the church, as most of it remained empty. This prompted Reverend Adolf Davis of the Methodist Church to comment that sometimes these ceremonies lose vitality over time. He remarked, “coming together to recognize the Sovereignty of God, the love of God, it’s so important,” and he said that we need to remember it in our nation.
Justice Brian Cottle of the High Court gave brief remarks on the sentiments expressed at the High Court.
Speaking on the Bishop’s reminder of the most important commandment of loving one another as yourself, he stated, “If we all guide ourselves by those injunctions, there can be no doubt that we will find ourselves living in a kinder, better, safer St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Cottle ended, “I hope that going forward with this law year, we would allow ourselves to be influenced, or more influenced by those sentiments expressed by Bishop County.”