Friday , 23 February 2018
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Statement From Attorney General Hon. Steadroy Benjamin

There is no doubt, that Antigua and Barbuda must adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal. I want to use the words from Justice Hytali from Trinidad and Tobago, when he said, “It is offensive to our sovereignty as independent nations that a foreign tribunal should be our final court of appeal’. He is so very correct! Our society, is built on three democratic principles, or three principles. 1. The Executive, 2. The Legislature and 3, The Judiciary. In our jurisdiction, the Executive controls and runs the government. Our legislature debates and passes the laws applicable for our society. But when it comes to our judiciary, what is the position? Our final court of appeal, now, is to be found in the Privy Council. That cannot be correct!

It must be pointed out that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was established in 1833, the same year that the Slavery Abolition Act was enacted. This was not done by coincidence. It was done to facilitate the new system of colonialism in the region. It must be noted that after the First World War, when the colonialist had troops from the colonies fighting on their behalf, it was in 1931 that the Statute of Westminster was passed. This means that ‘any dominion’ acquiring independence was free to rid itself of the Privy Council. It was not surprising therefore that in the 1960’s when former colonies became independent they divorced themselves from the Privy Council starting with India, Australia, countries in Africa, Singapore and Hong Kong. More recently, in the Caribbean, we had Barbados, Guyana, Belize and now Dominica. In order for us to be real Caribbean peoples, in order to be fully independent, it is absolutely necessary that that third pillar of our democracy, the Judiciary, be founded and enshrined in the Caribbean region.

The words of Bob Marley are specific He said these words: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds’’. In Antigua, a local calypsonian, Latumba, used the well-known phrase: “Liberate yourself, my brethren, liberate yourself’. It is very important that we do this in order to make our country truly liberated and truly an independent country. As far as Antigua and Barbuda is concerned, we are determined to make sure that we join…and accept, the CCJ as our final appellate court. It is very pleasing that both government and opposition have joined together in unison for this specific purpose. This is one of the few occasions in the history of Antigua and Barbuda that this has occurred.

I want to compliment the Leader of the Opposition, Baldwin Spencer and Leader of the UPP, Senator Harold Lovell, and my government for joining together to do what is only right for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. We must rid ourselves of an institution set up in 1833 to facilitate colonialism. We are now in 2016. We have been independent since 1981, November 1. This is the final step to becoming truly independent.