Why Bother With the CCJ Then?

by Michael A Dingwall

Though I had some serious issues with our CARICOM countries going ahead with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), I support the idea of our need for us in the region, at most, to have our own final court. However, recent events concerning a ruling it made in respect of Barbados is further strengthening the doubts people like me have about our readiness for this court.

Almost two years ago, the court ruled in favour of Jamaica’s Shanique Myrie in a case she brought against the government of Barbados for the treatment she got while she was in that country. Despite the order of the court, two years have passed and the government of Barbados is yet to pay a cent.

Whatever the reason for the delay in payment, the government of Barbados is reported to have said that it is not in the habit of chasing lawyers to pay them. By extension, it can also be interpreted that it is not in the habit of being in any hurry to abide by court rulings too.

Now, we are always being told that we need to grow up and have our own court. But what is the use of this court if the very governments that have signed on to it turn around and effectively refuse to abide by its rulings?

Unlike Jamaica, Barbados uses this CCJ as its final court. I remember sometime ago hearing a Barbadian politician complaining that he has a serious problem with judges from Jamaica and other CARICOM countries that don’t use the CCJ as their final court having anything to do with judgments involving Barbadians. I wonder if this sentiment has anything to do with Barbados refusing to “be in a hurry” to abide by the court’s ruling.

Many of this court’s supporters constantly remind us that as its funding is independent of any government control, there is no need to worry about its judges coming under the influence of any of its member governments when rulings are to be made. Well, that may very well be true. However, as Barbados is now showing us, seeing that they can’t influence its judgments, CARICOM governments clearly can always ignore them.

I suppose one shouldn’t be too surprised to the obvious spinelessness of this CCJ. After all, it is a product of CARICOM, which, as far as I can see, is the region’s biggest talk shop. However, it’s a pity that the CCJ is becoming another talk-shop too.

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