St. Lucia Tuesday signalled its intention to become the fifth Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to have full membership of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that was established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court..
Acting Governor General Cyril Errol Charles, delivering the traditional Throne speech at the state of a new Parliamentary term, told legislators that the government is committed to addressing “our destiny as an independent nation, both tacitly and tangibly.
“This year, St. Lucia will take steps toward the accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice. We are thus expected to become the fifth CARICOM member state to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ.”
Charles said that the Phillip J. Pierre administration, which enjoys a 13-4 majority in the Parliament, has appointed a committee under the chairmanship of former CCJ president, Sir Dennis Byron “to prepare the way for St. Lucia’s accession to the CCJ.“The draft legislation for the amendment of St. Lucia’s Constitution to allow for accession has been prepared and will soon be available for public scrutiny,” the Acting Governor added.
All of the CARICOM countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, which also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement, only Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica have signed on to the Court’s Appellate jurisdiction.
In his address, Charles told legislators that the government is committed to bettering the governance framework and promoting a more secure and accountable democratic system.
He said constitutional reform has languished “for way too long” and that the government intends to “reignite the discourse on what form and style our democracy should take, especially within the context of the technological era of information communication technology (ICT).
“The Parliamentary Committee created for this purpose will be revamped and mandated to consider specific areas such as prime ministerial term limits, a fixed date for general elections, the appointment of a Deputy Speaker, and the matter of becoming a Republic,” Charles said.
He said that St. Lucia is also moving towards strengthening regional institutions and that the government intends to strengthen functional cooperation and integration, particularly at the level of the Eastern Caribbean sub-region.
He said regarding regional trade and travel, the Pierre government believes that the present system of regional air and sea transportation is a disincentive to trade travel and tourism.
“My government is desirous of pushing forward long talked about the dream of regional air and ferry service as well as the review of shipping operations.”.
Charles said that good governance and anti-corruption were issued that had featured repeatedly in the run-up to the last general election in July last year, noting that “corruption creates waste and inefficiency in the delivery of vital services. It therefore must be stamped out of our public affairs with due haste and vigour.
“A government can have the best of plans but if it does not govern well, if corruption abounds, every plan will be rotten from the inside. My government invites the nation to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to corruption,” Charles said.
The Acting Governor said that the government. will review and strengthen the Integrity in Public Life Act to hold public officials accountable to the people.
“My government will continue to strengthen the management of its public finances through the finalisation of the Regulations for the recently approved public finance management and procurement legislation.”
Charles said in addition, a new Debt Bill will be brought to Parliament that will seek to amalgamate all the existing pieces of legislation that deal with debt into one comprehensive law and this will provide
a more effective and cohesive framework for the management of our debts and liabilities.
“My government will appoint a Special Prosecutor and enact the supporting relevant legislation necessary to conduct investigations into acts of alleged public corruption. It is the intention of my government that these investigations will be completed during the life of this Parliament.”
Charles said that the Pierre administration is aware of the public’s impatience regarding this matter and has been working “assiduously so that the right mechanisms are in place to ensure investigations will be done in a legal, transparent and fair manner”.