From today's Observer column
By Jean Lowrie-Chin
Sir Dennis Byron, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice gave a compelling argument for the court in his lecture at UWI, Mona last Tuesday titled "The role of the CCJ – media in Caribbean judicial and economic development".
Sir Dennis encouraged a partnership between the judiciary and the press towards good governance. He assured that "the CCJ is committed to transparency and openness [with] facilities to assist media in gaining access to information".
"The decisions of the court are all available on our website at www.caribbeancourtofjustice.org with a specific portal for journalists," he advised. The CCJ is indeed up on social media – I tweeted a photo of Sir Dennis giving his lecture and it was retweeted by @caribbeancourt. Dr Leith Dunn commented after the lecture that Canadian justice representatives who had toured the CCJ had said it was one of the most progressive models they had ever seen.
Sir Dennis explained that the appointment of judges to the CCJ "is completely independent and insulated from political influence." He said its financial viability was guaranteed in perpetuity by the creation of a trust fund.
He remarked on the prominence of Jamaica: "You have the highest visibility both regionally and internationally. You won your first Olympic Gold in London in 1948 and you have gone from strength to strength – Usain Bolt now commands the world! Your current band of world athletic leaders was developed in Jamaica by Jamaican coaches."
Further, he reminded us that the UWI had its beginnings in Jamaica in 1948 and achieved its status as an independent university in 1962, setting a precedent for the severance of extra-regional links for other Caribbean institutions.
Having convinced us of our Jamaican pride in local and regional self-sufficiency, the wise CCJ President pointed out that "the one glaring and unfulfilled gap in Jamaica's independence has to do with Jamaica's highest court [which remains] the judicial committee of Her Majesty's Court in the United Kingdom."
How long has this argument been going on in Jamaica? Sir Dennis quoted a Gleaner editorial published over 100 years ago, which observed that the Privy Council is "out of step with the times" and recommended that a regional court be formed!
He rejected the cynical viewpoint that there was a problem of familiarity: "It is easier to trust those you know, who you can observe, than to trust people you don't know." The Shanique Myrie case against the state of Barbados on her right to free movement in the region is being heard by the CCJ this very week here in Jamaica.
Guyana, Belize and Barbados are already on board with the CCJ, and both of Jamaica's political administrations have had their concerns about the Court satisfactorily addressed.
Jamaica Bar Association President Ian Wilkinson, in thanking Sir Dennis, endorsed his call, challenging anyone to say what could be negative about an organisation that has gone "eight years not out."
The most convincing statistic expressed by Sir Dennis, is the fact that in the five years before the start of the CCJ, Barbadians took eight cases to the Privy Council; in the 7 years since the start of the Caribbean Court, 25 cases have already been brought, many by folks who would not have been able to afford the expensive route of the UK Privy Council. It is time Jamaica, it is time.
Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel