The Ministry of Legal Affairs is preparing to conduct another referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – two years after the electorate voted to reject the Trinidad-based court as it final appellate court
On Monday, Attorney General Dr Lawrence Joseph confirmed that a draft amendment to the 2016 Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and other justice-related matters) Bill was recently sent to the Grenada Bar Association for discussions and input.
Referendum“We have circulated that amended Bill to the Grenada Bar Association for discussion as part of the first step, after we receive comments from the Bar we will then have wider discussion,” said Joseph, adding that the Bill also must be laid in the parliament for no less than 90 days for the referendum could be held.
The main purpose of the Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and other justice-related matters) (amendment) Bill 2018, is to amend the Constitution of Grenada in order to enable accession to the CCJ as the final Court of Appeal instead of the Privy Council.
The 2018 Bill include almost everything in the 2016 Bill with two exceptions.
“We have removed the section about swearing allegiance to the country instead of to the Queen as well as the code of conduct for public officials. However, if during the discussion people recommends that anyone be included it will be replaced.”
Joseph said that the Government will once again establish a committee to spearhead the process.
The previous committee was chaired by well known constitutional lawyer Dr Francis Alexis with 18 others who represented several stakeholders including the religious community, the media, the youth, the labour movement and civil society.
The Bill was among seven which failed to receive the adequate number of votes in the November 27, 2016 referendum.
Grenadians voted against the CCJ by a margin of 9,492 in favour and 12,434 voted against.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell then said that he regretted the defeat for the CCJ, noting that he should have done more to encourage voters to accept the CCJ as the island deepens its political independence from Britain.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General is confident that the Bill will this time receive the majority of votes.
“This time around, Government is supporting the Bill and will be encouraging people to vote yes and tell them to vote with their conscious,” he said.
“While most of the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, which also functions as an international tribunal that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction,” he then said.
Following the Prime Minister’s remarks to re-open the dialogue on the CCJ, Ruggles Ferguson, a former member of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee said he was pleased that Government was once again thinking about Grenada joining CCJ.
“When we talk CCJ, it means greater and quicker access to justice for the people,” said Ferguson who was quick to point out that for the dialogue to succeed there will be need for serious public education to ensure that whenever such a decision goes to the people the decision is made from sound knowledge.
“Looking back at what happened during the referendum and the outcome, I see there will be need for public education targeting all, so that when a decision is made to change the constitution it will be made as a result of factual education and not the lack of it,” said Ferguson represents the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) Bar Association on the Advisory Committee.
Ferguson who is the also the President Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Association said that Grenada is already paying for the Court as a member of Caricom and so the people should utiltise the services.
“It cost so much more to take a matter to the Privy Council in London compared to taking a matter to the CCJ in Trinidad, matters can even be filed electronically and be heard using technology, it’s very cost effective,” he said.