There’s no need to fear the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) ability to dispense justice in the region.
That was the prevailing sentiment yesterday as the regional court embarked on a outreach project with a Media Open Day live broadcast that not only highlighted landmark decisions but gave viewers a walk through of its operations at the Trinidad headquarters.
Last year, Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda voted against switching to the CCJ as their final appellate court.
In its bid to win over the region, the 14-year-old tribunal drew on a senator, lecturer, and its own line-up of respected jurists to push its cause as it beseeched other states to join Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica as having it as their final court of appeal.
President Adrian Saunders said that to the often asked question as to why the regional states should have the CCJ as its final appellate court he had “not heard a single reason that persuades me that is a good idea to send final appeals of any of these countries to a tribunal other than the Caribbean Court of Justice”.
To emphasise his point of Seeing from Near Judging from Far, a presentation he made in Barbados on Friday night, Saunders cited the case of Trinidadian media magnate Ken Gordon versus former Trinidad prime minister Basdeo Panday in which Gordon claimed Panday defamed him by calling him a pseudo racist.
The losing Panday appealed all the way to the London-based Privy Council which also ruled against him and, said Justice Saunders, the law lords’ words then also gave weight to the need to have the CCJ.
He said the overseas judges ruled that the Trinidad and Tobago judges were in the best position to assess whether in Port of Spain it would be a bad thing to call someone a pseudo racist and that assessing the seriousness of a libel and the quantification of an award were matters where judges with knowledge of local conditions were much better placed than they were to make a determination.
Justice Saunders said the four states which had signed on were enjoying a tremendous advantage over the other states demonstrated in the volume of cases reaching the CCJ compared to those going elsewhere.