Trinidad and Tobago
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I've changed my mind: dump the Privy Council

Letters to the Editor
Newsday

THE EDITOR: For years, I was against the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as our final appellate court.

I argued (mostly with myself): why should I trust the impartiality of local judges (some of whom could be political appointees) who may have prejudiced opinions on local cases and people involved?

How does the UK’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (PC) and the US Supreme Court compare?

On the one hand, PC members are selected by a judicial committee and retire at 70. On the other hand, the US Supreme Court members are the President’s appointees with lifetime tenure. Luckily, the CCJ is fashioned after the PC.

CCJ judges are appointed by the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission and retire at 72 (extendible to 75). Compared to the Privy Council, which uses five judges for matters dealing with Commonwealth cases, the CCJ has a panel of seven judges, with one female judge.

Is it possible that there could be local political coercion by a judge on the CCJ? Since most judges are from different countries, that is extremely unlikely.

The CCJ president, Justice Adrian Saunders, is from St Vincent; Justice Wit from the Netherlands; Justice Winston Charles Anderson is a Jamaican; Madam Justice Maureen Rajnauth – the first woman appointed to the CCJ – is from TT; Justice Denys Barrow is from Belize; Justice Andrew Burgess is Bajan; and Justice Peter Jamadar is a Trini.

The case for making the CCJ TT's final arbiter of justice can be stated in terms of financial and judicial expediency. The cost of hiring lawyers to advocate a case at the Privy Council is prohibitive to the majority of people. However, we are lucky to have the CCJ based right here in Port of Spain.

While I may never even contemplate filing a case with the Privy Council, I will undoubtedly consider filing one in Port of Spain, if ever I am in the position of appealing a court ruling.

After all, what do the lords and ladies of London care about the people of Trinidad and Tobago? To them, we are a remote Commonwealth country many know little of and could care even less about.

Therefore, I am now advocating for dumping the Privy Council and using our own CCJ.

REX CHOOKOLINGO

Via e-mail