There was no consensus among Caricom heads over this country's move to partially withdraw from the British Privy Council in terms of criminal appeals and replace it with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said last night.
Persad-Bissessar disclosed this to the media at a news conference at the VIP lounge of Piarco International Airport, upon her return from St Lucia where she attended a Caricom meeting.
In April this year, Persad-Bissessar made the historic announcement that legislation would be brought to Parliament by her Government to facilitate the partial withdrawal from the Privy Council.
"The Caricom operates in a particular way; you must have a consensus of views to get a decision; there was no consensus on this matter as some of the heads were of the view that they needed more information and research with respect to the legal implications of such an amendment, so that issue remains open," said Persad-Bissessar.
She said there are differences in legal opinions in that some argue that the treaty needs to be amended to facilitate the partial withdrawal from the CCJ while others have expressed that it was not necessary.
Persad-Bissessar said there was no time frame set as to when Caricom heads would again consider the matter, but she assured her Cabinet will be looking at the issue as early as its next Cabinet meeting.
The Prime Minister said she raised the issue for discussion at the Caricom meeting "out of an abundance of caution", and she respects the views of all the Caricom leaders.
As it stands now, Persad-Bissessar said the Privy Council remains this country's final appellate court as she noted it is enshrined in our Constitution and a two-thirds majority of Parliament is required for any such amendment.
She noted further that only three countries, Guyana, Belize and Barbados, have subscribed to making the CCJ its final appellate court.
Asked whether she saw the no support from Caricom over the partial withdrawal from the Privy Council as a blow, Persad-Bissessar responded, "I don't see it as a blow; we work together as heads of the region; people share, they have different views.... I see it as a process, it is part of a process."
"Whilst we had the Privy Council from day one, I cannot see that within a matter of weeks or months that something can be changed overnight," she added.
She pointed out that Article 28 of the treaty states there must be consensus at Caricom and, therefore, leaders acted within the tenet of the law.
Questioned as to whether she would again consult with the Opposition People's National Movement (PNM) on the matter, Persad-Bissessar said she does not see any useful purpose in doing so as the Opposition has already indicated their position —that they support a full and not a partial withdrawal from the Privy Council.
The Prime Minister, when questioned, steered clear of commenting on the controversial move last Wednesday by National Security Minister Jack Warner to oversee the demolition of the campsite of the Highway Re-Route Movement, who are opposed to the Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Point Fortin Highway.
Persad-Bissessar said she was advised that the matter was going to be litigated upon and, therefore it would be sub judice for her to comment.