Beverly George: CCJ was turned into political ping-pong

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Attorney Beverly George believes that a referendum should have been held soon after passage in parliament of the Bill on constitutional reform, including the proposed change from the Privy Council to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) being the final court of appeal for Antigua and Barbuda.
A panelist on yesterday’s Big Issues programme on OBSERVER RADIO, the member of Antiguans and Barbudans for Constitutional Reform and Education (ABCRE) group, added: “Unfortunately, from my observation, it seems as though the process evolved into a political ping-pong match and what has, in essence happened, is [that] the people’s right to vote has been pre-empted. They should have been allowed to vote yes or no.”
George, however, feels that the referendum issue should not be allowed to continue “in its present incarnation”. Noting that a referendum is a costly matter, George said that while it is important to move away from the colonial court, there are other things that are equally or more important.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association, attorney Lenworth Johnson, had stated earlier in the programme that the referendum should be held but it should be preceded by an education campaign that should take a number of years.
Johnson said that the local bar association had voluntarily participated in the education exercise on the proposed CCJ move.
“The Bar was represented on the coordinating committee [which was] headed by Dr. [Clarence] Henry and we took part in meetings and discussions and in a few of the town hall meetings,” he disclosed.
“The bar association also had a television show called ‘Bar Talk’ – eight shows from April to June 2016 – weekly on Sunday nights.”
Noting that “participants on the show were lawyers and nonlawyers”, Johnson outlined that six of those programmes discussed the pros and the cons of the proposed move from the Privy Council to the CCJ.
He said that based on the feedback from ordinary people in relation to the television shows, he deduced that the people have more confidence in the Privy Council.
“The people feel that the local courts, here, the Antigua and Barbuda High Court, the Court of Appeal, they are not independent and they are not free from government influence …
Secondly, the people find that the infrastructure of the courts and the administration of justice need to be improved. When I say that, I mean the court system, the infrastructure, the prisons, the police station cells, et cetera. All these need to be improved, and in addition to that, the timeliness of cases has to be improved – it takes too long to move from prosecution to eventual judgment and even at the Privy Council level.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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