Delivering Thursday night’s Norman Manley Lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, with the theme “The Coming of Age of the Caribbean”, Sir Dennis said that the development was “a tribute to the coming of age of the Caribbean and a fitting gift to the masses”, as Jamaica celebrates its 50th independence anniversary.
“The independence of the CCJ and its fitness to replace the Privy Council (in England) as the final appellate court should not be a matter in which there is any doubt,” he told the audience inside the Faculty of Law lecture theatre.
Sir Dennis, who assumed the presidency of the court in September 2011, said that “the groundwork has been satisfactorily laid for completing the journey of ending the manifestations of colonial rule”.
He praised the Jamaican Government for maintaining its strong backing of the Court, as well as the Opposition for moving to accept the emerging maturity of the court and facilitating cooperation on its recognition.
He said that the independence of the court should be assessed on the quality and character of the judges, the system of selecting these judges and the financing of the court. He added that the court has done exceptionally well since its inception.
Sir Dennis noted that countries in the region, including Jamaica, were demonstrating a commitment to avoid “playing party politics” with the subject of the court and were, instead, moving towards recognising its achievements, and encouraging cooperation of government and parliamentary opposition for its constitutional recognition.
Government Senator K D Knight reflected on the life of the Jamaican national hero, the late Norman Manley, after whom the law school was named, while principal of the law school, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, welcomed the guests. The annual event, inaugurated in 1966, was staged by the Norman Manley Law School’s Students’ Association.
The CCJ will meet in Barbados, beginning April 16, the first time the court will be sitting outside of its base in Port-of Spain. Barbados is one of three countries to have acceded to the court’s appellate jurisdiction, along with Guyana and Belize. The remainder of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, has retained the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London as its final court of appeal. The CCJ, the subject of heated debates across the Caribbean since it was established in 2001, derives its legal mandate from Caricom’s Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.