The Caribbean Court of Justice held a video conference from its headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad to CARICOM islands on Saturday March 19 to introduce Sir Denis Byron as the President-Designate of the CCJ. The current president is Michael de la Bastide. There is a seven year term limit for each president and de la Bastide will complete his term in August 2011. Bryon is poised to take his place.
President de la Bastide lamented that more Caribbean countries have not signed on to the CCJ as the final appellant court. Only three countries have signed on so far while the others still rely on the Privy Council as the final appeal court for their jurisdiction.
Said de la Bastide during the video conference, “When I think of the possibility that people might let this court slip under their nails, I think it’s tragic. It would be a national catastrophe, a regional catastrophe and that is how strongly I feel about it.”
The STAR asked de la Bastide for his opinion on why more countries have not come on board with the CCJ. This is what he had to say, “I think this question has a certain political connotations and I don’t want to go into that but there are other factors that come into play. One of them is that sort of innate lack of confidence in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters. We always think that we cannot produce quality goods or quality people. And it’s as if we have to wait on people outside the region to recognize the work of some of our people.
“Sir Denis Byron has the best qualifications which makes him the best person to appoint. There are lots of other persons I can nominate, but I won’t, who have received international accreditation. We feel that we are not up to the standard of the metropolitan professional.”
The STAR went further to ask de la Bastide how he would address the view of many Caribbean citizens as it relates to political interference in the CCJ. Answered de la Bastide, “All I can tell you is two things. The first is I know of no court on the planet earth which is better protected against political influence. Second, in my seven years as president, there has been no question of anyone exercising political influence or indeed any extraneous influence on the court.”
A sore point for Caribbean countries is that capital punishment is still on their law books. Most, if not all, capital punishment sentences have been appealed. The Privy Council is renowned on their stance for overturning capital punishment sentences unless in severe circumstances such as terrorism or genocide.
The STAR inquired as to the CCJ’s position on the death penalty. Said de la Bastide, “Our position on the death is that we will abide by the laws and constitution of any country from which an appeal originates. We will implement and apply the statutory laws and the constitutional provisions of any country from which a death penalty will come. That is what our duty is and that is what we are instructed to do. There has been one case of that kind that has come to us.”
As for the president-designate, Sir Denis pledged that during his seven year tenure, he will do all within his power to get more Caribbean countries to sign on to the CCJ as their final appellant court.