A CARICOM ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL

Submitted by Caleb Pilgrim

CARICOM, the GOB and Minister Colin Jordan are perhaps to be congratulated on the recent, belated establishment of a CARICOM Administrative Tribunal and its inauguration in Bridgetown, as reported this past Monday.

However, I would be remiss if I did not draw to the readers’ attention relevant historical antecedents and the fact that the GOB must ensure that Barbados is adequately represented on the Administrative Tribunal, if only to keep the Tribunal honest.

Most, if not everybody knows that for many years, the CCJ, despite having Justices from various jurisdictions, did not include a single Justice from Barbados, and often roundly condemned the Barbados Judicial System.

The origins of the new Tribunal lie in the case of Johnson v. CARICAD, the second case filed under the Court’s Original Jurisdiction. Plaintiff, a Barbadian, had been employed as a Head of Administration at CARICAD, a CARICOM Regional “Institution”. She had been summarily dismissed from her position after seventeen years service. Her dismissal occurred the first morning she returned to work after she had completed her approved study leave. Plaintiff had received no notice prior to termination.

Legal proceedings ensued shortly thereafter.

The CCJ subsequently ruled that it lacked jurisdiction on the grounds that CARICAD, despite its legal status as a CARICOM “Institution”, was not “a competent defendant”. The Court’s decision effectively meant that no Barbadian employed by a Regional Institution could obtain legal redress before the CCJ, regardless of injury.

The day after the CCJ dismissed the Plaintiff’s action, Plaintiff filed before the Barbados High Court. There the matter has remained for more than 12 years. Plaintiff made multiple applications in the interim. None of these applications were ruled upon, except in one instance where the then Master ruled, then vacated his ruling, then referred the matter to the then Registrar, who then went on leave and tragically died without ruling. The Master then retired. And there the matter there remained stymied, pending before the Barbados Court. Plaintiff had only been terminated in 2007.

It was in this context, 11 or 12 years ago, that I argued (in an open letter to the CARICOM Secretary General) for the establishment of a CARICOM Administrative Tribunal. (see attached).
https://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/07/07/opinion/letters/there-is-need-for-a-caricom-administrative-tribunal/

I had also delivered a lunchtime lecture at the DLP George Street HQ urging the need to establish a CARICOM Administrative Tribunal. (See attached).
http://caribbeancourtofjustice.blogspot.com/2009/12/caricom-ideal-of-good-governance-three.html

The need for such a Tribunal was also at the root of a Draft Statute that I presented at one of the seminars arranged by the Cave Hill Law Faculty. (See attached)

Law teaches that there is no wrong without a remedy. However, age and experience prove that such is not always the case. The new Tribunal should, in theory at least, help to remedy mischiefs where deserving Plaintiffs (such as the Plaintiff in Johnson v. CARICAD, and other unsung heroes) injured by the lawless actions by employers of regional “Institutions”.

 

Dr_CalebPilgrimfinalpaperfinal2003

6 comments

  • @Caleb

    It seems the BU intelligentsia are intimidated by this matter presented by you. Is it fair to hold that fas a black mark against the CCJ the fact Bajan judges were not selected to the CCJ bench? Is this the criteria that should be used for selection?

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  • Is there a record of this matter at the CCJ website. There must be an explanation of why this court declined jurisdiction, but I don’t see it. I think it would be important to see what the court said.

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  • @ BMcDonald.

    I dunno. The decision featured on the Court’s website long ago, when I last visited the matter. There was ample record of the Court’s hearing(s). (Perhaps, Kangaroos are not only to be found in Australia, or wherever). Peace.

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  • Blogmaster:

    Thanks for yours above. Kindly release my response.

    From my perspective, the issues (a Tribunal to decide employee disputes, etc), and its composition are of importance to Barbadians.

    If there is a contrary narrative by others, it should be publicized and debated, no?

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  • There was no response to release.

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  • @ Blogmaster,

    I unequivocally support the inclusion of another Barbadian Justice or Justices on the CCJ. (Guyana and Trinidad have both had more than one Justice sitting on the CCJ at the same time). I note in passing that it took almost 15 years for a Barbadian Justice to be appointed.

    Similarly, Barbadian(s) ought to be appointed to the new Admin Tribunal, even though candour demands that we recognize the fact that mere Barbadian nationality by itself may not always translate into fairness, honesty and impartiality.

    Law operates in context. We should therefore take into account the Political Context of the CCJ Judiciary, as well as the newly established CARICOM Administrative Tribunal.

    You see, Blogmaster, without seeking to re-litigate Johnson v. CARICAD, and without going too far, there were several issues which, in my opinion, necessitated an effort to keep the CCJ honest. E.g. At one point, I had moved the Court to exercise its Itinerant Jurisdiction and hear the matter in Bridgetown. One Justice had even suggested the same. The Court however subsequently denied my motion to exercise its Itinerant Jurisdiction. The then C.J specifically told me that despite the Court’s Endowment of U.S $100 million, the Court could not afford to exercise its Itinerant Jurisdiction as requested. Of course, this was sheer bogus. I knew at the time that the Court, in at least 2 prior cases, had already exercised its Itinerant Jurisdiction and heard 2 matters in Guyana. (I do not suggest that CCJ Justices Pollard and Bernard – both Guyanese nationals – had any bearing on the Court’s exercise of its Itinerant Jurisdiction to hear matters in Guyana). I could go on …. and on …. Hopefully, the presence of a Barbadian Justice on the Court will temper such anomalies.

    Suffice it also that I met with a previous B’dos A.G, a Monday, early on in the trial, and requested that the A.G and the Barbados Government (parens patriae) file an amicus brief on behalf of the Barbadian Plaintiff. The A.G promised to get back to us by the Wednesday immediately following. Said Wednesday came, went and passed on into history.

    Also, met with the then CARICOM Minister and, among other things, provided him with a copy of the “Draft Statute for A CARICOM Administrative Tribunal”. He was pleasant. Notice that I did not say ignorant, as in ignorant of the issues.

    I believe that I wrote to all and sundry advocating for the establishment of a CARICOM Administrative Tribunal (CCAT) with a view to protecting the rights of ALL Barbadian employees employed with CARICOM Institutions. The then ruling Party was simply too busy. How else to explain such apparent diffidence? The late EWB, a serious regionalist, and even OSA, might have seen things differently. But, enough!

    Enter now the CCAT – the Tribunal – and Minister Jordan’s otherwise worthy inaugural speech. Going forward, based on relevant experience, his focus might well be how best to protect fellow Barbadian CARICOM related employees, against the day when they may be called on to litigate harassment, summary dismissal, etc. before The CARICOM Tribunal. The Tribunal should not then be another hostile environment, filled with pomp and pageantry, but void, that is empty of substantive justice, despite any avowed claim to ensure that it seeks to ensure that justice is served.

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