Editorial | Freundel Stuart’s petty grievances
We have no evidence of it, but we wouldn't be surprised that with a first name like his own, Barbados' Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was, as a boy, the butt of taunts and ridicule. Children can be wicked!
If this thesis holds true, Mr Stuart may have lived with a deep sense of grievance, which could have been aggravated by a difficult general election campaign of not only uncertain, but difficult, odds. That, perhaps, would explain the resentment spewed by Mr Stuart at the weekend against the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and his pledge to withdraw Barbados from the court should his Democratic Labour Party (DLP) be victorious at the polls later this week.
We can only imagine the torment Mr Stuart, by his declaration, must have visited upon the spirit of Errol Barrow, Barbados' first prime minister, the founder of the DLP and an early stalwart of the regional integration movement, for the pettiness and seeming absence of logic in which the prime minister grounded his assertion.
Mr Stuart, a one-time proponent of the CCJ, offered no reason for inveighing against the court except for a vague claim that its judges are disrespectful of Barbados. The likely truth is that he is dissatisfied with the rulings of the court that highlighted his government's contravention of the law and the maladroitness of his administration.
First was the Shanique Myrie case, in which the CCJ, in its original jurisdiction as arbiter of the CARICOM treaty, insisted that the Jamaican woman, as a citizen of the Community, had an automatic right of entry into Barbados - and other CARICOM states - which was abused by Barbados' immigration authorities. Then there was the court's ruling a week ago, in the criminal and civil jurisdiction, that Professor Eddy Ventose, a St Lucian, who teaches law at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados, had the right to vote in Thursday's general election.
Barbados' Representation of the People Act (ROPA) says that citizens of Commonwealth countries - among which St Lucia is counted - who have lived in Barbados for at least three years, for which Professor Ventose qualifies, are entitled to vote in that country's elections. But Barbados' Election Boundaries Commission has, as a matter of policy, limited this right only to citizens, permanent residents, or persons of immigrant status. Professor Ventose had prevailed Barbados Supreme and Appeal courts on his right to registration but went to the CCJ to ensure that he was on the roll for the coming poll.
Said Prime Minister Stuart in the aftermath of the ruling: "I don't subscribe to disrespect, and I think that the attitude coming from Port-of-Spain leaves much to be desired in terms of how it is treating Barbados. And I am not going to have a situation where other countries in the Caribbean keep a safe, safe distance from that court while Barbados supports it and Barbadians are treated with the kind of disrespect that I see."
Rather than displaying disrespect, what the CCJ has displayed is judicial independence and a high quality of jurisprudence, as highlighted by the Myrie and Ventose rulings, which ought to be recognised and celebrated by the region's leaders, except for those burdened by insecurities.
That's the message being parlayed by current and prospective members of the CCJ, rather than using Mr Stuart's diatribe, as attempted by our justice minister, Delroy Chuck, as a crutch of vindication for being outside the court. Jamaica has offered no intellectually persuasive reason for staying outside the court - except when it was politically expedient for the current governing party, when in Opposition, so to prevent.
Mr Chuck has argued that the court is unstable because Barbados and others can withdraw. Under Article 37 of the CCJ agreement, it requires at least five years for a signatory to leave the court. Jamaica, all things being equal, could, in six months, withdraw from the Privy Council if a two-thirds majority vote in either House of Parliament can be mustered for the decision.
The legislative underpinning of any court is crucial, but ultimately what gives strength to any institution is the confidence of commands, derived from the quality of its performance. On that score, the CCJ's quality is in no doubt.