PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar used her “conversational message” on Monday with the people of Trinidad and Tobago for yesterday’s 37th anniversary of this nation as a constitutional republic to signal the coming of some significant political changes for improved democratic governance and building of a more united society.
She chose the high road in pledging commitment by her People’s Partnership administration “currently revealing some non-threatening cracks” to “build a nation where each of us has the same opportunities”.
What a bold promise for a governing administration in a plural society that so often seems obsessed in highlighting weaknesses more than known strengths with less than three years more to go for closure of the People’s Partnership’s first five-year term.
More later the expressed laudable commitment by the Prime Minister even as the mix of criminal rampage, controversies over “bobol” and race-based politicking, as well as the current focus on local government election and another parliamentary by-election continue to grab media headlines.
What struck me as being a very significant omission from promised initiatives to be pursued during the remaining tenure of the People’s Partnership’s first term, is the lack of any reference by the Prime Minister in this 37th year of T&T as a constitutional republic on the often promised access of membership of the Port of Spain-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The non-mention in her address becomes even more intriguing when it is recalled that back on April 25, 2012, in an address to Parliament, the Prime Minister was quite categorical in her assurance of Trinidad and Tobago accessing the CCJ as its final appeal court and cutting the colonial apron string with Britain’s Privy Council.
Alluding to earlier assurances given to her fellow Caricom Heads of Government at their summit in Suriname to review arrangements to scuttle the Privy Council in favour of the CCJ as this country’s final appellate court, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar had delivered a most reassuring message in her April 25, 2012 address to parliament:
“As a measure of our growing confidence in the CCJ,” she said, “and as a mature and leading world democracy in this year (2012) of our 50th Independence anniversary, we will table legislation acceding to the criminal appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ.”
“In so doing,” she added, “my Government affirms its commitment to deepening of the regional integration process and the development of a Caribbean jurisprudence. By our commitment today the Government of the People’s Partnership signals a most historic development in the administration of justice in independent Trinidad and Tobago.”
**JAMAICA TOO: That firm assurance is yet to be a reality. The pledge remains, as in the case of Jamaica, a work in progress. Ironically, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica were the two pace-setters when, in August 2012, within three weeks of each other, they joyfully celebrated the 50 years of independence from British colonial rule.
As two Caricom states with much in common—including possession of human and natural resources; among the so-called ‘Big Four’ in the formation of Caricom the others Being Guyana and Barbados, they are currently the biggest contributors to the operational budget of the CCJ.
They are also the ones that continue to engage in flattering observations about the spawning of a ‘Caribbean jurisprudence’ with active participation as members of the CCJ as their final court.
Alas, however, while they honour their contractual financial obligations and already recognise the CCJ as a court with “original jurisdiction” in the settlement of disputes among member states of the Community, the current governments in Port of Spain and Kingston are yet to take concrete legal measures to make a reality of the CCJ as their court of last resort—and NOT the Privy Council in London.
Mire than high time for both Prime Ministers Persad-Bissessar and Portia Simpson-Miller to end the rhetoric and seek politically creative ways to embarrass—if this is really necessary—their respective parliamentary opposition in joining them for the much overdue break in the colonial relationship with Britain’s Privy Council.
Ironically, British law lords themselves are known to be most anxious for such a development.