PM Mitchell confirms referendum day is 6 November

Caribbean Court of Justice

by Linda Straker

  • 6 November is CCJ referendum day
  • US$100 million trust fund already established by regional governments to fund CCJ

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has confirmed the date Grenadians will be voting in a referendum aimed at changing the final appellate from London’s Privy Council to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice is 6 November 2018.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) settles disputes between Caribbean Community (Caricom) Member States and presently serves as the highest court of appeals on civil and criminal matters for the national courts of Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana.

Describing the move to make the CCJ the final appellate court as a bold and courageous step in regionalism, Dr Mitchell said that there comes a time in life when bold decisions become absolutely necessary.

“Voting yes for the referendum is a decision that will shape the future of our country. It’s an opportunity to showcase our regionalism at work,” he said. “The CCJ has the potential to be the next regional pillar of strength,” he said while pointing to other regional institutions such as the OECS Court of Appeal and the University of the West Indies.

Nationals in Antigua and Barbuda will have their own referendum for the same purpose on the same day as Grenada. Both islands’ constitution mandates there be a referendum involving the people for any change to be made to the constitution. The yes vote must receive a 2/3 majority from voter turnout on referendum day for it to be accepted.

Commending government’s decision to undertake a second referendum almost 2 years after a similar failed to get approval in 2016, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley told a packed Trade Centre at the launch of promotional activities, that the CCJ is not a creature of regional politicians but an institution to resolve issues by all.

Speaking on the topic “Breaking the Chains of Colonialism for one United Caribbean” Mottley said, “People must understand fundamentally that the court is simply the best way that you can resolve decision in your life.”

Sharing information about the organisational structure of how judges are appointed and how the court receives its finances, she said that for those who fear that politicians will control the court because they will play a role in how it is financed, they should have no fear because the court is operated by a trust fund. “Governments in this region already gave the US$100 million to establish the trust fund, and they don’t appoint officers,” she said, later disclosing that Barbados which was the first of 2 states to accept the CCJ has had judgements against it.

Speaking on the matter of access to the court, she said that people need to have freedom and choices. “Freedom is choice, and if you don’t have a choice, you don’t have freedom, and if you can’t afford and you cannot access it, you don’t have a choice,” said Mottley who is a lawyer by profession. “Justice must be affordable and swift,” she added.

In November 2016 Grenadians voted against the CCJ with 9,492 in favour and 12,434 against in a referendum which had six other bills. The CCJ Bill is presently before the Lower House of Parliament.

Following the launch, the CCJ Advisory Committee while be engaging a series of educational outreach exercises.

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