Caribbean islanders to vote on court system

AFPST. JOHN’S (AFP-Jiji) — Voters in two Caribbean countries long independent from Britain will wrestle with thorny issues of fairness and sovereignty on Tuesday as they go to the polls to decide whether to keep a London-based body as their final court of appeals or embrace a court much closer to home.

Although the sun set long ago on British rule across most of the region, many English-speaking islands retain the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), which traces its roots to the Middle Ages, as the final word in the administration of justice.

The upcoming constitutional referendums in Antigua and Barbuda and in Grenada will gauge public consensus on officially adopting the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) instead. They require a two-thirds majority to pass.

The island states are tiny, with a combined population of perhaps 200,000, and are best-known for their sunny climes and sparkling beaches.

That said, the court issue has raised deeply felt questions not only of sovereignty but of the impartiality and accessibility of justice to islanders.

“For the first time our population will have a real say” on matters crucially affecting their future, said Andy Liburd, spokesman for a public education committee in Antigua and Barbuda.

Grenadians opposed the court change in a 2016 referendum. This is the first time Antiguans and Barbudans will vote on the matter.

The JCPC, comprising British Supreme Court judges and senior judges of other Commonwealth countries, adjudicates on all manner of cases — currently hearing, for example, a claim for damages resulting from a traffic accident in Antigua and Barbuda.Speech

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