Attorney General agrees Supreme Court debt should be addressed

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Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin has responded to calls from a veteran attorney, that the government should pay its arrears to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC).
Benjamin stated that payments are being made on a regular basis, but that Antigua & Barbuda and other countries served by the ECSC have longstanding arrears.
Last week, during the Special Sitting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ECSC, Sir Gerald Watt QC, who is also Speaker of the House, said the indebtedness to the court is crippling its operations.
However, Benjamin said that the government continues to pay, but noted that the millions owed, is the result of arrears incurred by all nine countries that the court serves.
“We have been making payments to the court, all countries are trying to do that, but that is arrears from 12 years or more and to be fair that has been the
case with all the other islands. Each island is to pay a certain amount based on population,” the attorney general said yesterday.
Former attorney general Justin Simon QC stated that the total indebtedness to the court as at January 2017, stood at $27,501,000.
Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines – along with British Overseas Territories Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Montserrat — are serviced by the ECSC and are required to make a contribution to the court, to offset administrative costs.
However, the countries have failed to routinely keep up with their contributions, with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries said to be the greatest defaulters.
“We haven’t been making the payments for many, many years, but our government realises the importance of the court being properly financed and we are going to make arrangements to get our balances up to date and under control,” Benjamin said.
He added that the government is also in support of calls for the establishment of a trust fund for all member states, so that the court can operate on a financially independent basis.
Sir Gerald said the ECSC is in desperate need of these funds so that it could function effectively.

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