Posted on

Doctrine of separation between the executive and the judiciary


Tue May 7, 2013

Editor: The doctrine of separation is being adopted in the Eastern Caribbean, but unfortunately not in at least four jurisdictions in the Caribbean community. This is unfortunate.{{more}}

The structure of the Eastern Caribbean Court does not permit political manipulation since the Court serves nine jurisdictions; six independent states: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts/Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines; and three British Overseas Dependent territories: Anguilla and Montserrat.

The Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), which is headed by the Chief Justice, comprises representatives from member states/territories, while the JLSC in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, and The Bahamas comprises members from its respective jurisdictions.

The constitutions of the English speaking Caribbean were drafted by the British, since they were all former British colonies, and the governments are divided into three sections: the executive, parliament and the judiciary. There has always been separation of powers where the executive is separate and apart from parliament, and the judiciary and vice versa. This is to ensure that there is impartiality in each section of government.

However, recently, there have been movements between parliament and the judiciary. It started in Guyana in the late 1980s when the Chancellor of the Judiciary at the time, Keith Massiah, became the country’s Attorney General, the day after he vacated the highest bench in the judiciary of the Co-operative Republic. The move was severely criticized by legal circles in the Caribbean. I recall Massiah was confronted by his colleagues, especially the Jamaican delegation, when he represented Guyana at a meeting of the Council of Legal Education in Tobago.

I was representing St Vincent at that conference.

It was ironic that a few years later, Karl Rattray, who was Attorney General under the Michael Manley administration was appointed a Judge of the Court of Appeal. Prior to being appointed Attorney General, Rattray was the law partner of P.J. Patterson, who succeeded Manley as Prime Minister. He served as Attorney General between 1976 and 1980 when the PNP lost power.

In Barbados, distinguished jurist David Simmons, QC, LLM, LLD, was appointed Chief Justice the day after he vacated office as Attorney General. In fact, Simmons served two terms as the country’s chief legal advisor between 1985 and 1986, and from 1994 to 2001, when he took over as head of the judiciary.

It was even worse in Guyana when Charles Ramson, who was serving as Attorney General, moved to the Court of Appeal, and a few months after he quit the Bench went back as Attorney General. This to my mind is a blatant move to and from political office then to the judiciary and back.

In The Bahamas, another Caribbean Community country, Michael Barnett, the serving Attorney General, was appointed Chief Justice on August 24, 2009 and less than two months later he was knighted by the Queen.


Oscar Ramjeet