Grenadian lawyer foresees another failed attempt at a referendum

Jerry Edwin

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

“If Grenadians vote ‘NO’ to the CCJ on 6 November this year, the error will surely be the fault of our political leaders and pro-vote misnamed the Advisory Committee, that together failed to engage in a confident full-throttle education program that honestly and forthrightly disclosed to Grenadians, an opportunity to make an independent and informed decision about whether they should replace the Privy Council as their current final appeal court with the Caribbean Court of Justice”

– Head of Chambers of Eden Law Caribbean, Attorney Jerry Edwin

Caribbean Court of Justice

Head of Chambers of Eden Law Caribbean, Attorney Jerry Edwin said he fully supports, in theory, a Caribbean Court of Justice, but is of the view that government’s enormous resources are being wasted on a referendum which may recent in another failure due to the hastened speed at which the Government of Grenada is moving forward with its campaign dubbed “Breaking the Chains of Colonialism for one United Caribbean” nearly 2 years after the first failed attempt.

“The miscalculated decision to move full speed ahead with a referendum vote to amend the Constitution for the purpose of making the CCJ the final court of appeal, without engaging in an exercise they failed to undertake previously, that is, educating the Grenada Public about the CCJ, is very likely to kill forever a laudable opportunity to adopt a regional court of final appeal. The fact is that Grenada has agreed to submit to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ where such jurisdiction touch and concern the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The Grenada public in the main has no clue of what that means.”

Edwin believes sufficient time has not been given to properly roll out an effective campaign to sway the Grenadian public on acceding to the CCJ.

“Given the failure of the backers of the “yes” vote to acquaint our people with the CCJ, it is reasonable that a thorough education program, say for 6 months, be undertaken. After all, the best consumer is one that is fully informed. My advice to the committee is that they should be honest with the stakeholders who are being persuaded to adopt this court to replace the CCJ. To begin with, the brochure that was handed out at the launch and the speeches by the speakers, notably the Attorney-General of the Privy Council being a “relic of colonialism”, is a cheap shot, but people who lap at Elizabeth’s bosom for the first opportunity of a knighthood or other royal designation like “Dame” or “Madame” or “Order of this or that”. I am disappointed that there are attorneys on the Advisory Committee who do not see the need for a completely transparent process. For example, the committee should tell the Grenadian public that the salaries and benefits of the Judges of the CCJ are decided by the Heads of Government of Caricom.”

The CCJ Advisory Committee is also being taken to task for its failure to properly inform the Grenadian people on the subject.

“The committee should admit that the bill as now written, maintains an allegiance to the Queen, and the narrative of “anti-colonialism” is just a crude attempt to deploy the calling card of persuasion which is every politician’s stock and trade. The committee should be completely transparent and tell the Grenadian public about that strange clause in the bill which enshrines in concrete, that if we adopt the CCJ, any future change can only be made with the consent of the Heads of Government that formed the court, not the stakeholders in Grenada.”

He continued, “The committee should tell Grenadians that there is no court in the entire world as we humans know it, that is not in some large (totalitarian) or small (democratic) part impacted by political influence. Full interference in the decisions of courts is normal in totalitarian countries, and the least political interference is normal in democratic countries.”

During the launch of the CCJ promotional activities at the Grenada Trade Centre on Wednesday, President of the Commonwealth Bar Association, Ruggles Ferguson, pointed to the successful lawsuit of the Barbadian Government by a Jamaican national Shanique Myrie, and most recently the court case involving St Lucian-born Professor Eddy Ventose successfully contesting his right to be able to vote in the just recent General Elections in Barbados, as reasons why Grenadian’s should vote yes to the CCJ on 6 November. He says having the CCJ as the final appellate court would mean that an ordinary citizen can receive justice in a timely manner.

“Our major complaint against the court system is if you do a survey among the people when you speak to the ordinary man on the streets, he will tell you that justice takes too long. The CCJ is out to right that wrong. In the Eddy Ventose case, a case concerning whether a Commonwealth citizen can vote in the election in Barbados… the election was on 24 May, he filed an appeal to the CCJ after working hours at 5 pm on the Friday, that when the registry closed and it reached the judges the Friday night and because of the urgency, the CCJ set the hearing date for the Sunday which was Mother’s Day, and by 2:15 that case was completed – the CCJ ruled and had a written judgment within 48 hours.”

Meanwhile, the CCJ Advisory Committee will be engaging a series of educational outreach as part of promotional activities ahead of the 6 November vote to have the CCJ as the final court of appeal. The launch was held at the Grenada Trade Centre on Wednesday, 29 August in the presence of Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley.

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