Public must decide in a referendum vote on Privy Council removal says Maharaj

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Public must decide in a referendum vote on Privy Council removal says Maharaj

Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, said the public must decide in a referendum vote, if after 189 years, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is to be removed as the final appellate court of Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking on Saturday at the inaugural lecture of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) on whether the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) should replace the Privy Council as T&T’s final appellate court, Maharaj said although a referendum was not part of the law in T&T, all that was needed was a simple majority in the Parliament to have one.

He said there were eight referendums in the countries of the English-speaking Caribbean to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ and only was in favour.

Maharaj said, “The people have all the power in T&T. They could move a government could replace a government, they could virtually do anything lawfully in T&T.

“So that is why I say that if for 189 years you have a judicial institution giving you the appellate jurisdiction and yes you recognise that sometimes in the future you will have to get rid of it because of many reasons…”

He added, “If you are a government committed to democracy and you want to remove that right and the people of T&T sovereign democratic state, then it only follows that you have a duty as a government to consult the people, get the consent of the people and you pass a law to permit a referendum and permit a vote for that purpose.”

The eight instances where a referendum was held to have the CCJ replace the Privy Council as the final appellate court, were in The Bahamas in 2002 and 2016; Antigua in 2008; Nevis in 1998; Grenada in 2009 and 2016; and St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2009.

Also speaking at the symposium were Anand Beharrylal, QC, from London, former PNM government minister Karen Nunez-Teshiera and attorney Kiel Takalalsingh.