Dominica parliament approves Caribbean Court of Justice; Antigua to hold referendum
The Dominica Parliament has approved the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the island’s final court.
The parliament late on Tuesday passed a bill to amend the constitution to facilitate the move.
Only elected members were allowed to vote on the issue and all 18 MPs on the government side voted in favour.
Of the three elected opposition members – opposition leader Hector John abstained, while former prime minister Edison James and the third MP, Roseau Central’s Norris Prevost were absent when the vote was taken.
Constitutional amendments require the support of three-quarters of the elected members of parliament.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said during the debate that fears about political interference in the judiciary, while understandable, were misplaced.
“And I can tell you, Madame Speaker, I have been prime minister for ten years going, and we have been in office for 14 years going, I can say to you, at no time have we interfered with the administration of justice in this country,” the prime minister said.
Meanwhile, incoming Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman, Antigua’s new Prime Minister Gaston Browne, told the opening of the CARICOM annual summit in Antigua on Tuesday that his government intended to hold a referendum as soon as was practicable on accession to the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction.
He argued that the region could not be “truly independent” if its final court of appeal was a court of its colonial masters.
Browne, who came to power in the June 12 Antigua and Barbuda elections, said his government would not loiter on that matter, and would demonstrate confidence in the region’s own final court of appeal.
And going on to set the stage for the discussions over the next three days, the prime minister called for “a coalition of the willing” to move the integration movement forward.
The region’s economic woes and potential solutions are on the agenda of this year’s summit.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the outgoing CARICOM chairman, told his colleagues that the grouping needs to acknowledge the hardships being experienced by many in the Caribbean.
Gonsalves called for support for the regional integration movement.
The CARICOM heads of government began their 35th annual summit on Tuesday night with a reminder that the individual member countries of the regional bloc are too small and too vulnerable to sustain themselves in a changing global environment.