Former Antigua &Barbuda PM says CCJ is essential for true independence

Former Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Lester Bird

Former PM favors CCJ over Privy Council 

Former prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Lester Bird says replacing the London-based Privy Council with the c(CCJ) “finishes Antiguan and Barbudan independence and autonomy that was begun in the 1930s.”

In a broadcast on Sunday, Sir Lester, who served as the island’s second prime minister from 1994-2004, said that the ruling Antigua Labour Party (ALP) had long advocated the need for the country to move away from the Privy Council.He said when the island sought to attain political independence from Britain in the 1960s, it wanted full independence that would have also included an independent judicial system.

“We rejected the idea that judicial decisions which affect our lives should be made in a city thousands of miles away, and by persons appointed largely by the Prime Minister of a country that was our former colonial power,” Sir Lester said.

Last week Thursday, Antigua and Barbuda launched a three-month public education program on whether to continue with the Privy Council or replace with the Trinidad-based regional court. At the end of the exercise, citizens will be asked to vote in a referendum on the matter.

Sir Lester, 78, who is now a National Hero and senior minister in the present Gaston Browne administration, said he welcomed the initiative since “it is important for the people of this country to know that serious consideration of our delinking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council did not start this week.”

He said when he was prime minister he signed the Caribbean Community (Caricom) loan agreement with the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to establish the US$100 million Trust Fund to finance the court, and also said that since no member of the CCJ is beholden to governments for their salaries and other emoluments, “none of them has to worry that a decision against a government would affect their livelihood.

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