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Dorbrene-O’Marde - Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Commission

Reparation Committee chairman questions Privy Council’s change of heart

ST.JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 15, CMC – Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Commission, Dorbrene O’Marde, has dismissed a suggestion by the London-based Privy Council that it is prepared to sit as itinerant court and that Antigua and Barbuda is welcomed to remain within its fold.

“So far as we are concerned, we are very happy to continue hearing those appeals, as long as those countries wish to come to us for their appeals to be decided,” said Lord Neuberge, President of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the island’s highest court.

“We are aware that there are a number of countries that are considering withdrawing from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. We will be sorry to see them go, but we appreciate that it’s entirely a matter for them to decide according to their democratic processes,” he said in a video presentation at the Youth Forum of the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) Education Campaign.

But O’Marde, speaking on a radio programme here, said it is only now after more than 180 years, the Privy Council is preparing itself to become an itinerant court.

He said Caribbean countries would have to meet a number of expenses in order for the Privy Council Law Lords to visit the region to hear cases.

“…pay their airline (tickets) to get there, pay their chambers to represent us, pay their lawyers, pay their hotel, pay all these things, that amazing costs after 183 years they are now prepared to come to the Caribbean to hear these cases.

“There is something rather insulting about that. We have already established a court here that is itinerant, that is staffed by the highest legal minds…and is prepare to have a better understanding of civil rights and human rights issues in this Caribbean,” he told radio listeners.

O’Marde asked why should Caribbean people listen to the British Law Lord when London has not been willing to accept its role in the transatlantic slave trade.

“The reparation issue in this Caribbean is boiling …the British government has received a letter from our heads of governments inviting them to come and sit and let’s talk reparation…and (Prime Minister David) Cameron comes into Jamaica with a bucket of money and wants to build prison and let us not worry about reparation.

“Right now in the discussion on the CCJ, they appear again, they are ready now to become itinerant, they are ready now to set up all the visual thing, they are ready now to do all sorts of things that they could have done 183 years they have been in control of the final say of justice inside our Caribbean”>

“And now they turn up and we must be awed by that. We must believe them. Why don’t we ask the question what is it they are looking for and what is this sudden change of mind because over the last couple of years two of the main speakers on this matter have warned the Caribbean about being kicked out of the Privy Council, have said that they are tired of having these courts for Commonwealth countries and now all of a sudden they inviting us to stay in the midst of our discussion and we must accept that,” O’Marde said.

“We are not stupid people,” he added.

In his video presentation, Lord Neuberger said the Privy Council is taking steps to address issues surrounding high costs and access to the court, deemed as some of the key obstacles faced when attempting to utilise the court’s services.

“We are piloting a video link facility, so that hearings can take place over the Internet, at a time that is convenient for the local jurisdiction,” he said, adding that this service would help to reduce cost and eliminate travelling time for parties from the Caribbean or other jurisdictions from outside the United Kingdom.

O’Marde urged Caribbean people “to step out of this street corner argument” about the effectiveness of the Trinidad-based CCJ.

He reminded his listeners that the judges from the CCJ are being selected from throughout the Commonwealth and bring with them a high level of professionalism.

He urged the region to have faith in the organisation reminding them “that there is no other court in the world so designed” to be insulated from political interference and an independent financial system.

Antigua and Barbuda is due to hold a referendum at the end of the three month public education programme on whether to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ.