BRIDGETOWN, Barbados Tuesday May 22, 2018 – Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has served notice that if his Democratic Labour Party (DLP) wins a third term in office in general elections later this week, the government will be saying goodbye to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its appellate jurisdiction.
But he is denying that he has taken that position because of the Trinidad-based court’s rulings against the Barbados government, including the most recent which has forced the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC) to allow Commonwealth citizens who qualify, to be registered to vote in Thursday’s polls.
While most Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have signed on to the original jurisdiction of the CCJ, only Barbados, Dominica, Guyana and Belize have adopted it as their final court of appeal.
Speaking at a DLP meeting over the weekend, Stuart said Barbados was being disrespected by the court, and he would no longer allow the country to be take that disrespect which is being meted out by “politicians wearing robes”.
“Once the Democratic Labour Party is returned to office, I am determined to put Barbados on the same level as every other CARICOM country by delinking from the Caribbean Court of Justice in its appellate jurisdiction,” he said to applause.
“We went in first and we can come out first…I want to make it very clear I am not here tonight commenting on the decisions. I’m the officer of the court myself as a lawyer. I respect a decision that courts make and when I have disagreed with them, I have appealed them…but I am not going to have Barbados disrespected by any politicians wearing robes. It is not going to happen.
“I don’t subscribe to disrespect and I think that the attitude coming from Port of Spain leaves much to be desired in terms of how it is treating Barbados. And I am not going to have a situation where other countries in the Caribbean keep a safe, safe distance from that court, while Barbados supports it and Barbadians are treated with the kind of disrespect that I see,” Stuart added.
Barbados joined the CCJ in 2004. The Prime Minister did say, however, that Barbados would not be going back to the Privy Council.
Leader of the opposition Barbados Labour Party, Mia Mottley, responding to what she said were embarrassing comments by Stuart, insisted that he was only upset by the CCJ’s most recent ruling giving Commonwealth citizens living in Barbados for three or more years, the right to vote.
Mottley accused Stuart of wanting to pull out simply because he did not like the court’s judgment.
“I am [ashamed] of my Prime Minister, because nobody would ever expect that kind of comment. And who has he consulted with? Has he consulted with the Bar? And don’t tell me it’s not about the Commonwealth citizens because why the Prime Minister didn’t tell you about it four weeks ago, why he didn’t tell you about it three weeks ago?
“You don’t like the fact that the Solicitor General and all the government advisers [told] you [that] you have no case, you cannot stop these people from voting. The law is as clear as ABC!” Mottley said on Sunday night.
Meantime, a former president of the Bar Association, Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim, said pulling out from the CCJ would be a “retrograde step” and would mean that justice for the average Barbadians would rest solely in the hands of judges appointed by the Prime Minister.
He said this could have serious implications for transparency of recourse for the average citizen against the Government.
“When one looks at the high quality decisions and the access to justice that has resulted from the CCJ, I would regard the comments as unfortunate and a retrograde step. I can’t imagine that the Prime Minister soberly thought that this was something that would be appropriate to do. I think this is something that just happens during political meetings so that they can get people to clap and jump up,” Pilgrim said.