Virgin Islander and Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Her Ladyship, The Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE, has continued her call on governments of member states and territories to do more than just pay lip service to the ECSC, but rather to put their money where their mouths are.
Let’s hope she was just joking. Otherwise, if Mrs. Pereira is seriously expecting politicians to put their money where their mouths are - she had better go back to school, as that altruistic fantasy questions her basic ability to be even just a simple lawyer.
Politicians put money into their own pockets. Full stop.
Politicians have invested so much to get into their positions that they do not care about others, only about putting the money into their own pockets. Just as for Lawyers and Judges, a Politician's mouth is used only for advertising, and has nothing to do with truth or reality....
"The banks are honest"; "The USA is a democracy"; "All men are created equal"; "Courts deliver justice"; "Criminals are in jail, honest people are law makers and judges"; "We’re only taxing you to serve you better"; "We are civil servants"; "you are Right Honorable"; blah, blah, blah ...
The Honorable Pereira was at the time giving her address, broadcast to all member states and territories of the ECSC, from Antigua and Barbuda at the Opening of the 2019/20 Law Year under the theme: “A NEW ERA for the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court: the Road to achieving Court Excellence” on Monday, January 13, 2020.
The Chief Justice named and thanked a number of persons who took up appointments in jurisdictions across the Eastern Caribbean States and said it is no hidden fact that the Court is under-resourced both in terms of human and financial capital.
“In respect to human capital, I put the call out to those of our legal practitioners who are eminently qualified to step up to the plate and serve not on a part-time basis but full-time. It has been said that some of our finest work comes through service to others.”
Courts operating without a budget
On the financial side of things, the Chief Justice urged governments to provide more than lip service.
“I once more call on the executives of our governments across the region to do more and provide more than lip service to the courts.”
According to Hon Pereira, the courts have been made to operate without an approved budget for several months now “and with promises not kept.”
She continued, “The fact that a little time, just once in the space of a year, to address funding for the court seems elusive, it speaks volume about where the judiciary is pegged, somewhere on the bottom rung of the ladder.”
Hon Pereira described this as a chronic failure by governments to adequately fund the courts in their jurisdiction, which prevents the court from putting strategic plans into action.
“The reforms and enhancements to current court processes and procedures and the addition of new ones coupled with capacity building amongst our judicial officers and court staff can only go so far.
“If we fail to appreciate our human resources and if the doors of our courts are closed or our physical facilities cannot support our courts optimised scheduling of matters, or where basic facilities fail to be provided at all then all, the reforms, no matter how well intended, count to nought.”
‘I am unable to silent about it’
Similar admonishments were made by Hon Pereira during the opening of the 2018/19 Law Year on September 18, 2018.
She had noted that the budgetary allocation for the operations of the Court in any of the Member States and Territories is less than 3% of the annual budget of any of the States in any year and had lamented that yet the financial position of the Court, year after year, remains one of grave concern.
“I am unable to stay silent about it. This Court does not have the benefit of a trust fund arrangement which at least serves as a buffer between the Judiciary and the Executive which holds the power of the purse. This Court must seek approval each year for its operational budget. Even so, the Court is constantly faced with the failure of some States to honour their financial obligations. Arrears continue to mount in respect of monies due to the Court.”
Hon Pereira had said at the time that the aggregate of arrears in contributions due to the Court stood at just over 22 million dollars.
“These shortcomings pose real risks to the administration of justice as they affect the Court’s ability to plan and implement programmes, or to employ resources vital for bringing about reforms or to keep the Court functioning as it should. These failures undermine access to justice and the delivery of justice,” Hon Pereira had stated.
About the ECSC
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) was established in 1967 by the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court Order No. 223 of 1967.
The (ECSC) is a superior court of record for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including six independent states: Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and three British Overseas Territories (Anguilla, [British] Virgin Islands, and Montserrat).
It has unlimited jurisdiction in each member state.