CCJ remains committed despite Referenda results in Grenada, Antigua/Barbuda
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has restated its commitment to Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda despite referenda on Tuesday in which citizens of those countries rejected proposals by their governments to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ as the final court of appeal.
President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders said, “While the news is not what we hoped for, we respect the people of both nations and their decision. The court will naturally continue ongoing initiatives with justice sector bodies in each of these countries, and the wider Caribbean, through the JURIST project and otherwise.”
In both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, the turnout of voters was low, with only 28 per cent of registered voters participating in Grenada and 33.5 per cent in Antigua.
In Grenada, of the 22,098 people who cast ballots, 45.05 per cent (9,846) voted in favour of the CCJ, while 54.39 per cent (12,133) voted to remain with the Privy Council; and there were 119 rejected ballots.
The CCJ fared slightly better in Antigua & Barbuda where approximately 47.96 per cent (8,509) voted to go with the CCJ and the remaining 52.04 per cent (9,234) chose to retain the Privy Council.
In Grenada, where the failed referendum was the second in as many years, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell expressed disappointment and said it was his final time trying to get the island to vote in favour of the Trinidad-based CCJ.
“I will not initiate another attempt at this issue as Prime Minister of the country. I hold very dearly to this particular position,” he said after the defeat.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne expressed a similar sentiment as he noted the impact the failure of the referendum in his country would have on future constitutional reforms—a situation he said was his biggest disappointment.
“It is unlikely that my government will, in the circumstances and in the absence of political maturity and magnanimity pursue any further constitutional reform in the near future,” he said.
The CCJ will however still serve both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.
In a release, the CCJ President emphasised that, “these results will not, of course, deter us from serving with distinction those nations that currently send their final appeals to us. As well, the Court will also continue to process and hear applications from all CARICOM States, and from CARICOM itself, in our Original Jurisdiction, and our justice reform work in the region will also continue”.
In addition, there is an Original Jurisdiction case currently before the Court originating from Grenada.
The JURIST Project, which is a multiyear justice reform project being implemented by the Caribbean Court of Justice on behalf of the Conference of Heads of Judiciary of CARICOM states, is working on a Sexual Offences Model Court to be housed at the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda in 2019. The CCJ Academy of Law is also hosting a legal conference in Jamaica in December 2018 at which jurists from both countries, as well as the wider Caribbean, are participating.
Justice Saunders stated, “one of the positives that came out of this exercise is that there was sustained public education in both nations and the conversation about the CCJ intensified. We can see the fact that there was more interest in our website, ccj.org, and on our social media platforms, on LinkedIn and Twitter. As we begin to implement our Strategic Plan for the 2019-2023, which includes a renewed focus on public education, we will certainly be taking advantage of the increased audience, and the interest that has been piqued, to provide more information about the work of the Court.”
Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana are the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that have so far acceded to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.