Caribbean News Service:
A senior lecturer at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has welcomed the ruling of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) regarding the registration of Commonwealth citizens to be included in the voter’s list ahead of the May 24 general election.
St. Lucian academic Professor Eddy Ventose had challenged the decision of the electoral authorities in Barbados to deny him the opportunity to be registered even though he has been resident in the country for several years. The matter was heard during an unprecedented sitting of the Court, two Sundays ago.
In its ruling, the CCJ, which is Barbados’s final court, said that the “long-standing policy of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission in relation to Commonwealth citizens to register as electors … is unlawful and ultra vires”.
Dr. Wendy C Grenade, a senior lecturer in Political Science in the Department of Government, Sociology, Social Work and Psychology, said the “CCJ must be commended for acting with a sense of urgency in the Ventose case”.
“Its responsiveness in dispensing justice to Professor Ventose and by extension to other Commonwealth Caribbean citizens in Barbados must be applauded. The CCJ also promoted transparency in its deliberations by utilising technology to livestream the court session”.
“This was a sophisticated act of techno-democracy, where the CCJ bridged the divide between itself and ordinary Caribbean people. The virtual court demystified lofty judicial proceedings. This was quite refreshing and reassuring, particularly for some who question the efficacy of the CCJ,” she said.
The lecturer said that the rule of law is a central pillar of any well-functioning democracy and that when state officials ignore or seek to frustrate rulings of the court, justice is denied and democratic norms are ruptured.
“The CCJ must be commended for demonstrating its judicial independence by protecting the rights of Commonwealth Caribbean citizens from the arbitrary exercise of power by a Caribbean state”.
“The CCJ’s warning that Barbados’ Chief Electoral Officer will be imprisoned and/or fined if she does not comply with its ruling, sends a strong signal of its seriousness of purpose and its intention to apply the full extent of the law to ensure justice for Caribbean citizens. It also demonstrates that the state is not above the law and that state officials can be held accountable for their actions”.
She said that the Ventose case is also significant because it demonstrates the importance of judicial review as a critical means through which citizens can claim legal redress against laws or policies that infringe on their rights.