SVG, other CARICOM countries paying for asset not being used
St Vincent and the Grenadines and several other countries in CARICOM are paying for an asset that they are not utilizing.
Queen’s Counsel, Pat Cheltenham made this point while speaking at Wednesday’s Town Hall meeting that was geared at addressing concerns related to making the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) St Vincent and the Grenadines’ final appellate court.
Cheltenham, who has experience with the court, was addressing the concern that the CCJ is likely to be an additional burden to the local economy.
“At present, and this has been so since 2005, St Vincent and the Grenadines has been paying back its portion of that loan. The only part of the CCJ’s jurisdiction to which you accede is the original jurisdiction. So, you are paying also for the appellate but not using it,” he said.
The CCJ was set up using a US$100 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank. All signatories of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas are responsible for making payments towards servicing this loan.
Currently, all signatories benefit from the CCJ in its original jurisdiction. But only four, Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica are signed on in the appellate jurisdiction.
“So why sit idly and pay for something which you do not use. That baffles me. That would seem to make very little sense. And that is so for Jamaica, Trinidad, all of them,” Cheltenham said.
He added that there were no additional costs or obstacles preventing St Vincent and the Grenadines and the other countries from acceding to the CCJ in the appellate jurisdiction.
And the Queen’s Counsel urged that careful consideration be given to why countries are paying, but not drawing all the benefits from the CCJ.
“You’re paying back the loan. Go and join the court and get the benefit of it,” he said.
During Wednesday’s Town Hall meeting, Cheltenham also addressed other concerns which fell under the broad headings of inexperience, stability and accessibility, impartiality and fairness, threat of political interference and the CCJ and its relationship to local justice systems.
President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders delivered the feature address, which included giving an introduction of the CCJ, the work it has been doing, some noted judgments and their impact and technology in the court.
An open forum was facilitated at the end of the meeting where audience members were allowed to share opinions and ask questions.
The event was a joint effort of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Bar Association and the Caribbean Court of Justice.