by JK Roberts
In the strictest legal sense, within constitutional governance as is typical of Grenada, justice begins at the law-making point and ends at the point of receiving satisfactory solution for an unlawful action.
In effect; the spectrum of addressing justice entails the structures and processes from the formulation and passing of laws in the Parliament, to the administration and application of the laws by the Executive, and to the interpretation and judgement on the laws by the Judiciary. The Parliament, Executive and Judiciary form the government of the land, which has been developed to facilitate justice by means of the rule of law, involving the adopting of democratic principles. The Executive is the central arm of the government, particularly for making possible and delivering justice to the people; that is, the laws of Parliament depend on the policies and purposes of the Executive and the extent to which the judgements of the Judiciary are enforced and respected is at the prejudice and pleasure of the Executive which is essentially the prime minister in a dictatorship-type administration.
The Executive uses its central control of the affairs of the land and its decision-making powers to define and determine the meaning and form of justice, as well as that of access to justice, for the people. It is this sweeping authority and discretion of the Executive that dictates the attitude and approach of the government of Grenada, as revealed for example in the manner by which the constitutional referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) continues to be pursued. The people however, must be astute to appreciate that the requirement for a referendum on the decision for a final avenue for judicial redress, or for justice, places them (the people) at a critical ‘powerful negotiating’ position to curtail the wanton excesses of the government. Wanton excesses with actions contrary to principles and laws are an abuse of power; this also takes the form of corruption and injustice against the people.
What do the people deserve and expect for justice? Justice for the people begins with having just laws, and this would include amending or repealing unjust laws. Considering that the Constitution of Grenada is founded on the affirmation of respecting moral and spiritual principles, the dignity of human values and rights, and the fatherhood and supremacy of God, then an unconstitutional law would be unjust as reflected in section 106; if any other law is inconsistent with the highest law of the land, then this other law shall be declared void. Justice is universally accepted as a virtue for living; it is about fairness and equity and is the basis for law and order in the nation. Thus; in section 38 of the constitution, Parliament is warned to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Grenada. Moreover; section 16(5) provides that the Parliament could confer extra powers to the High Court to enhance the effectiveness in the deliberations and delivery of justice. Unfortunately; the Executive has been propelling disputable laws and is sluggish to the crisis facing the High Court system.
To relate the concept “access to justice” to the CCJ as a final resort for justice is also to diminish and shun the duty of the Executive for the proper administration of justice and for it to be held responsible for the lack thereof and is to give the impression that justice rests solely with the CCJ. However; this deceit should have been debunked by the previously internet-circulated articles on the concern “Is Grenada’s CCJ referendum really about access to justice?” (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4). It is critically important to absorb furthermore, that accessing the CCJ does not mean, or is not the same as, achieving justice by the CCJ. The fact is that access to justice does not guarantee the receipt of justice, or it does not necessarily achieve justice; generally, none of the parties in a court-case is certain to receive a ‘just and/or satisfactory’ judgement. Many Grenadians can attest of continued suffering even after been able to have a court-trial, due to the disdain by the Executive for justice; judgements handed-down by the courts, especially for damages against the government, are often not honoured.
The imperfection of the CCJ with respect to the people accessing and achieving justice has been exposed by the Jamaican Shanique Myrie 2012-2013 case against the government of Barbados; review the judgement thus (www.worldcourts.com/ccj/eng/decisions/2012.10.26_Myrie_v_Barbados.pdf) (www.worldcourts.com/ccj/eng/…/2013.10.04_Myrie_v_State_Of_Barbados.pdf).
The case is however used as the flagship by the proponents for the CCJ, to woo the people for accepting the CCJ instead of the Privy Council; but this is done without making any reference to the outstanding troubling aspects of getting ‘real and ultimate’ justice. On many grounds; the case in itself is not a perfect and genuine example in testing the strength and merit of the CCJ; the main underlining reason being that trade complaints cannot and should not be equated to civil and criminal affairs. Despite the boast for the CCJ; the questions still remain about the record of any private person, and/or the government, of Grenada maximizing the CCJ in its Original ‘trade disputes resolution’ Jurisdiction, to address gross imbalances in Caricom; recall article “Focus for Senatorial debate on Grenada second CCJ referendum”.
The Shanique Myrie case teaches that even with a CCJ’s judgment, justice is not completely served with the tremendous delay and frustration for the judgement to be honoured. The situation has raised pertinent concerns and cries in various institutions regionally that “… if a judgement from the CCJ cannot be enforced, what’s the use? Isn’t the whole justice system a farce then? Why bother taking anything to the CCJ?” (https://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/…/caribbean-court-of-justice-judgements-can…).
Interestingly; it has been reported that Justice Ralston Nelson speaking on the regional integration Justice expressed that “… there was no order to implement the court’s ruling” and noting that “… there is also no power in the national laws for a CCJ order to be treated as a national order …”, in the article “No Mechanism To Enforce Judgement In Myrie’s Case – CCJ Judge”, (http://jamaica-gleaner.com/power/50599). The Myrie’s case also raised debates on the impact of the role of the CCJ on the status of national sovereignties; review article “CCJ ruling will pose problems” http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/letters_to_editor/3149/ccj-ruling-pose.
Unless provisions are in place to press for prompt punishment for wrong, including payment, from court-judgements, especially against officials of government, then a Vote No at the CCJ referendum would better serve as justice for the people of Grenada. Once again; the people are advised to continue to tread slowly but securely on the appeal for acceding to the CCJ and to learn and weigh cautiously, as the operations of the CCJ unfold and as the More Developed Countries of Caricom react.