ST. JOHN’S, Antigua & Barbuda: Former St. Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony has called for a region-wide simultaneous referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Anthony, St. Lucia’s current opposition leader, said government and opposition should reach agreement before venturing into a referendum on constitutional changes. He also said he was prepared to set that example.
“I do not believe that any government should go into amending their particular constitution to facilitate accession to the CCJ unless they secure the agreement of the opposition.
“I am on record as saying in St. Lucia that if the current government decides that the time has come for St. Lucia to access the jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice we would support it, we are not going to play games,” said Anthony.
“We articulated a position when we were in government and we are maintaining that position in opposition, we are not going to be hypocrites on this issue.”
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the government of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves suffered a major setback recently after voters rejected a new constitution which included adopting the CCJ as the country’s final court of appeal.
Anthony said it was important for government and the opposition to approach their electorates with a single voice on matters pertaining to the CCJ and their national constitutions.
“I’m suggesting that if the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) governments judge that the time is right to access the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ, they need to approach it jointly. I envisaged, for example, that a referendum would be held in all OECS countries on the same date.
“The second condition, as I have indicated, I believe that individually and collectively the support of opposition parties in all of these countries be sought so that the issue is not ripped apart by partisan rivalry and partisan contest because it is damaging to the political psyche of the country, so we want to avoid that,” said Anthony.
The Trinidad-based CCJ has been accepted by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as a tribunal to hear disputes arising out of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). However, only Barbados and Guyana have signed on to the court as their highest court of appeal, while the others still retain the British Privy Council.
Among the reasons why other countries have not signed on include concerns over independence of the court and the cost of holding referenda to effect the required constitutional change.