Thursday, July 22, 2004

TT: Obstruction for obstruction's sake

IF THE government and the country suffered a serious setback by the failure to pass the Police Reform Bills through parliament, a far greater embarrassment lies in store with the proposed refusal of the UNC Opposition to support the legislation setting up the Caribbean Court of Justice as TT’s final court of appeal. Consider this ridiculous scenario: The CCJ is inaugurated in a grand formal ceremony at its headquarters in Port-of-Spain. Jurists from all over the English speaking Caribbean and the Commonwealth attend. Among them is Michael de LaBastide, former TT Chief Justice now chairman of the CCJ. But while TT has played a leading role in getting the Court established, it happens to be the only Caricom state that has no legal status before the CCJ and must continue to rely on the British Law Lords to resolve its final appeals.

This absurd situation is not an unlikely prospect. It will certainly come to pass if the UNC Opposition carries out its threat not to support the legislation which dissolves our links with the Privy Council and replaces it with the CCJ as TT’s final court of appeal. The amendment, which comes before Parliament when it resumes in September, requires a two thirds majority which means it must get the backing of the Opposition to become law. But UNC leader Basdeo Panday, as he did with the Police Reform Bills, has declared that his party would not be voting for the change. If he fulfils that threat and performs another scandalous somersault, the consequences will be far more disastrous for our country which will become the laughing stock of the Caribbean and the world. The embarrassment of having to go before the Law Lords when we have led the way in creating a final appeal court for the entire Caricom region - which we have located in our capital city at great expense - would be difficult to endure.

But it has now become obvious that such considerations as the national interest, integrity, stature and reputation of our country provoke little or no appeal or concern for Mr Panday and his band of opposition members.The policy that now seems to guide the party is apparently  designed simply to stymie government measures where possible, regardless of the damage and the hindrance to progress that may ensue. The UNC decision not to support the establishment of the CCJ is madc more atrocious by the fact that the UNC government under Mr Panday had played an energetic role in conceiving and creating the court. It was former PM Panday who, in 1999, signed the agreement with other Caricom heads to set up the CCJ and make it the final court of appeal with headquarters in Port-of-Spain.
On the one hand, Panday and his cohort are bitching about crime in TT; on the other hand, they are stymieing the PNM's efforts to deal with the problem. Panday's UNC will accept no solution to a problem unless that solution is offered by the UNC as the party in power.


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