One understands clearly why this Rowley-led PNM Administration wants to remove the Privy Council as the country’s highest Court. The PC is the singular protection that citizens could rely upon to dispense real justice against the wrath of the PNM.
Attorney General Reginald Armour has now indicated that the Keith Rowley-led PNM Administration will be moving to make the Caribbean Court of Justice T&T’s final appellate court and then made a very bold pronouncement… there are no reasons that could possibly present any obstacle to the Opposition Leader supporting the requisite vote.
One of the most fundamental reasons attributed to retaining the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is it remains far removed from regional and domestic policies and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council relies strictly on applying only the law on all matters coming before the Judicial Committee for adjudication.
In 2019, a poll conducted by Nigel Henry found that the public confidence in the Judiciary in T&T was just 12% and while there has been no poll conducted with regards the CCJ, I doubt it will be any higher.
There are many reasons for the public’s low level of confidence and trust in the country’s judicial system. These include the inability of the courts to stem the inordinate amount of time (sometimes as much as 20 years) it takes for matters to be scheduled for trial and subsequent delivery of justice. Indeed, there might be more persons awaiting trial who are on remand in our jails than those who are actually serving their sentences.
There is also the firm belief that our courts lack the public’s trust and support (including the CCJ) and may be more vulnerable to attempts by political actors to undermine judicial results and/or judgements. The CCJ remains much too close to regional and domestic politics, politicians and policies.
And there are so many glaring examples of this.
It was the Privy Council which ordered the Manning-led PNM Administration to stop the discrimination against the Hindus and Muslims who were forced to accept the Trinity Cross as the country’s highest National Award since independence. The Sanathan Dharma Maha Sabha and the Islamic Relief Centre Limited lost before the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Thanks to the Privy Council the State was ordered to make the change to the highest award to restore a sense of dignity to the citizens of these two religious groups. It took the Judicial Committee to give meaning and substance to the words of the National Anthem ‘here every creed and race find an equal place’. One would have thought this would have been a duty more aptly discharged by the local Courts.
It was the Privy Council which found that the PNM Administration was discriminating against the Hindu Community who had fought for years for a radio licence. Thanks to the PC, they were able to secure the radio licence and be able to exercise their freedom of speech. The PNM and the local Courts were prepared to allow Citidel Limited, owned by a former PNM Mayor, to continue to enjoy the largess of PNM discrimination.
And thanks to the Privy Council, public servants like Ferosa Ramjohn and Ganga Persad-Kissoon, who were deprived of their positions in the public service by prime ministerial veto exercised by a PNM Prime Minister were able to receive legal redress. The same can be said about Industrial Court Judge Sam Maharaj who was unlawfully removed from his position on the say-so of a PNM government minister that “he could not read.”
It took the wisdom of the Judicial committee of the Privy Council to declare that that there cannot be appointments to the JLSC under section 110(3) b of the Constitution of either serving judges or former judges in retirement, a situation that was unlawfully to perpetuate itself over decades in this country. This was allowed to occur in relation to the institution that was responsible for the appointment of judges.
One understands clearly why this Rowley-led PNM Administration wants to remove the Privy Council as the country’s highest Court.
The Privy Council by its judgements, declarations and development of the law has been responsible for protecting the rights of the citizens of this country more than any other institution in the history of this country. It has the reputation of being the singular protection that citizens of this country could rely upon to dispense real justice against the wrath of the PNM. I am surprised that the Prime Minister and the Attorney General has not yet labelled our highest Court anti-PNM.
By Capil Bissoon