ROSEAU, Dominica, Mar 28, CMC – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says Dominica will join the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal even as it moves to iron out some constitutional matters affecting the wider Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
“We have indicated publicly several times our commitment to the CCJ. As a matter of fact we took a Cabinet decision in 2005 on the CCJ and we have gone to the Parliament to recognise the court in its original jurisdiction.
“We have indicated publicly the government’s intention of recognising the court in its appellate jurisdiction. Clearly there is a procedure within the Constitution we have to follow. We have to go to the Parliament and get the two-thirds majority…but there is a process of the passage of the amendment,” he said.
But Skerrit said that there was still need for discussions with Britain “to allow us to go to the CCJ if not we have to go to a referendum.
“We have to negotiate our accession to the CCJ with the British,” he added.
The CCJ was established in 2001 by regional governments to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court.
However, while most of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping are members of the CCJ’s original jurisdiction, only Barbados, Guyana and Belize have signed on to its appellate jurisdiction.
Prime Minister Skerrit told reporters that the different constitutional requirements within the sub-region have also affected the ability of the OECS countries to move towards the CCJ as a single body.
He said the OECS already enjoys a “single judicial jurisdiction” and he did not want to create the situation where “Dominica would have gone and the rest would have to remain with the Privy Council”.
He said that while Dominica and St. Kitts have the similar provision in their constitutions, St. Lucia for example is seeking an advisory on what are the intents of the drafters of the constitution while Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines would need to hold a referendum.
“So you have different countries having different requirements in so far as the constitution allows. But we have taken a decision at the OECS that we should all seek to recognise the court and the intention is that St. Kitts and Dominica because of the similar provision would move ahead with a recognition of the court.”
But he said that Dominica still maintains the position that talks should be held with Britain together, adding “it makes no sense St. Kitts goes, Dominica goes and everybody follows.
“We need to have a discussion with the British on this to indicate to them our intent and to get their understanding,” he added.