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The Elections Petitions Matter in Antigua- An Analysis Part III

Pay lip serviceThis Matter And the CCJ: Impact and Options- At a public rally following the EC Appeals Court decision, the opposition leader in A&B let fly deep reservations about the emergent CCJ.

In pertinent part he is reported to have said that if this is the best regional courts can do, then he promises no one in A&B will be “going down that road” under an ALP government.

Clearly both tale and tail of this matter have an impact on the wider quest for a final court to serve all of CARICOM. Apathy and antipathy resulting from this verdict have trickled down toward the embryonic CCJ at a time when it could least afford downsides to its image.

Ordinarily, one might classify the opposition leader’s statement as knee jerk reaction to disappointment, except that it must be added to a list of similar echoes from Kingston to Port of Spain that seem to indicate an existing crisis of confidence regarding the quality of CCJ decisions to be expected.

In general, the problem affecting the CCJ is the problem of Caricom itself - an institution paid lip service but not backed by substantive political commitment, will and action. The problem undermining CCJ is the hypocrisy and disingenuousness so prevalent in Caricom itself.

How does one begin to explain the glowing report given by the Caricom observer team to A&B’s 2009 elections when said event has since been declared as having significant violations of the rules by both High Court and Court of Appeal? I suppose we can await a WikiLeaks version of what was truly submitted to the secretary general.


And yet, even when one subtracts the insularity and distrust among Caricom; even when one factors out hypocrisies and disingenuousness, the CCJ initiative is still clearly afflicted with a crisis of confidence that is itself directly related to anecdotal experiences people have suffered regarding miscarriage of justice in local and appeals courts across the region.

A major stumbling block to embracing the CCJ is what psychologists call projection. People are projecting their current judicial fears and suspicions onto the CCJ, and they seem to remain unconvinced that factors unrelated to justice (politics, corruption, class, race etc) will not influence judicial outcomes at the CCJ the way they apparently do in local and appeal courts across the region.

It is in this regard that the disgraceful ruling of the EC Appeals Court did nothing to boost much-needed confidence in the CCJ. Some of you may recall reading this in Part I: “One is left wondering if the decision itself wasn’t made for other purposes and then feasible rationalizations sought and proffered as justifying cover. It is very hard to discern intellectual integrity in the appeal court’s ruling."

Eventually however, I’m not sure we have any option but the CCJ. Recently, the presiding chairman of the Privy Council said that in the best scenario, all former colonies (that still do) will establish their own final appellant courts and not continue to burden the Privy Council with their matters. Suggestion: close the door on your way out. Notice: door may remain closed on your next visit. A hint? That’s a warning if you ask me! How many of our leaders are listening?!

Besides the onerous economic cost for going to the Privy Council (given exchange rates); how does one quantify the cost in "shame" terms that such a hint has on our independence in the region.

Against this backdrop, it was very interesting to hear an eminent Jamaican jurist recently argue (as have many others) the urgent need for the region to buy-in to the CCJ and have true judicial independence complement our already established political independence. In a passionate plea, he went on to quote the late great Marcus Garvey as saying "it is better to govern or even misgovern yourself than be governed by someone else.”  

I wished the matter was that simple. But honestly, no amount of pride or shame can adequately soothe the gripping pains that accompany the miscarriage of justice. Besides, for all its sentiment on autonomy, Garvey’s statement will not move people in this post information age Caribbean. They simply do not have the long suffering it takes to be misgoverned - particularly in matters relating to miscarriage of justice.


Our predicament is: on one hand we are being "shoved off," and on the other "we aren’t ready yet". Summarily, the CCJ has to work; but we have to get it right, and quickly so. There are no other options, plain and simple!

Anyone still asking: CCJ or not, is clearly asking a non-question. The right question is: Under what conditions can we swiftly get the CCJ to become what the Privy Council is in terms of being a repository of our confidence in matters of justice?

I think embracing the CCJ begins with accepting that even the Privy Council in its formative stage must have undoubtedly endured quite some measure of suspicion itself, and must have made mistakes before emerging the bulwark of jurisprudence it presently is perceived to be.

Look, as our final appellant court, the CCJ will render good judgments as well as bad ones; of that I am sure. Still, all such acknowledgments are not good enough. We must proactively build in the best practices for assuaging reliance on the CCJ as our final appellant court.

To this end, I can readily think of at least three elements that must be in place to hastily move the CCJ towards redressing its crisis of confidence.

1.    Aggressive Dispassionate Intellectual Push Back: It must be openly agreed the court is not too sacrosanct to be responsibly censured by word or pen. The idea is not to pull down or disrespect, but to keep judges aware that their decisions are being observed and evaluated by alert, capable, public-minded guardians of regional society.

2.    Aggressive Caricom Oversight: There must be an appropriately qualified panel in place to provide quality control reviews of the CCJ's performance. This body can also act as a clearing house for vetting concerns regarding how dynamics related to size, wealth, ethnicity etc are perceived to be impacting CCJ dispensed justice.


3.    Aggressive Clandestine Surveillance: Not only for judges’ safety, but people’s judicial safety as well. We must not only know who is threatening judges, but also which judge, if any, is threatening justice by way of corrupt proclivities, and/or political collusion etc.  

This list is by no means exhaustive, and though a little controversial, is but a starting point for getting things right.

Raymond S. Edwards, Ph.D. Organizational Psychologist & Minister of Religion, is an International Development Consultant and Executive Leadership Specialist. © 01/13/11. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

See related stories:

The Elections Petitions Matter in Antigua- An Analysis Part II

The Elections Petitions Matter in Antigua- An Analysis Part I

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5 Comments In This Article   

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Avoiding the Red Coolaid

#5 Eric » 2011-01-24 08:20

Middleadhestreet - You are missing the point, the question is not how many people or countries express reservations about the CCJ, there are equal and in some cases more who are convinced that this is the way of the future of these countries in the Caribbean. I have had doubts myself, however that is no reason for Lester to be casting aspersions on the court that he signed into being – just because the OECS court of appeal rules against him in the election petition cases. In his usual dishonest behavior he is casting aspersions on the courts in Caribbean for his own political ambitions. It might be better if he uses his influence to have all the defendants in the IHI scheme to repay the millions of dollars taken from our treasury. – This may be helpful to keep him and others from the very courts that he despises.
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Eric

#4 my way of helping » 2011-01-24 06:40

Keep doing an awesome job of showing how the law and courts should work. it is so in other civilized, and liberal countries. A long time ago (on Antigua sun and speaking to some friends) I said that our region should not move the supreme court from England because we are still mentally dependent, under qualified and more prone to corruption and bribery.

I am against it too, no ccj and the reasoning they used in the election petition case seal their faith in my mind.

Awesome article, all three times.
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my way of helping

Who is Fooling Eric?

#3 Middleadhestreet » 2011-01-24 05:02

Eric, you are way of course. Have you read this three part aricle? Listen, others Caribbean countries have expressed reservation about the CCJ for example Jamaica and Trinidad. Are you not aware of this known fact? So it is not Lester Alone. Second, given the fact that the UPP almost lost the 2009 elections and the data shows that it is losing significant voters' confidence ground, are you saying that the UPP has a chance to win in 2014? What rock are you hiding under? The UPP will continue to fail to deliver, deliver, deliver and the people of Antigua will send it into the wilderness asap. In 2004 the UPP was the lesser of two evils. In 2014 the ALP is and will be the lesser of two evils. Antigua is in serious trouble, the Caribbean is hurting for all the reasons this article articulated, and the best comment you could have given is a non-thinking bartering that pushes UPP mess? Stop it!!!!!! You shaming our small island intelligence!
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Middleadhestreet

Edwards -Part2

#2 Eric » 2011-01-24 01:06

Lester’s hopes and aspirations were cast to the ground –his last hope to regain power and influence were destroyed with the well thought out and perfect judgement of the Appear court. Was it not Lester Bird who – without any consultation with the people of Antigua & Barbuda – signed on to the CCJ? And wasn’t it Lester Bird who praised the coming into being of the CCJ after the original judgement in the High Court in the same matter? What Hippocrates!!! Let me remind Mr. Bird and Mr. Edwards that no Antiguan will be going down any road with the Labour Party anytime soon.
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Eric

Come again Mr. Edwards Part 1

#1 Eric » 2011-01-24 01:05

Clearly, Mr. Edwards with All his PHD’s should be arrested and charged with Contempt of Court – in his articles he is obviously bringing our Caribbean Courts into disrepute – based on his own bias and lopsided ideas of the Election Cases decision. Of course it is very transparent that his loyally is with the Labour Party In general and Lester Bird in particular. In an effort to cast aspersions on the CCJ he is quoting Lester Bird as saying “that if this is the best regional courts can do, then he promises no one in A&B will be “going down that road” under an ALP government.” This is after boosting that “the opposition leader in A&B let fly deep reservations about the emergent CCJ.” In the name of God- what did he expect Lester to say?
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Eric

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Dr. Raymond S Edwards


 Dr. Raymond S. Edwards is a Columbia University trained organizational psychologist & international development expert; as well as a New York state certified staff development and training specialist. His consulting services include Cabinet retreats, Executive Team workshops and Organizational Change seminars. He is also an ordained minister, qualified educator, prolific writer and motivational speaker.

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