Roseau, Dominica – March 12, 2008………. One of Caribbean’s leading Lawyers, Dominican-born Senior Counsel, Anthony Astaphan has refuted claims by a former Caribbean trade negotiator that Dominica’s accession to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) violates its obligations to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
Mr Astaphan made his views public recently in response to statements made by the Guyanese-born, Sir Shridath Ramphal that “Dominica cannot lawfully enter ALBA without the concurrence of the other CARICOM member states”.
The former Commonwealth Secretary General also said that in order for Dominica to participate in ALBA, the Dominica government must have the support of Parliament.
But Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan totally disagrees and added that it ‘has historically been the prerogative of the Executive Branch of Government to execute treaties, bilateral or otherwise”.
According to him, Parliament has never had any role in the selection and execution of treaties and cannot enter into treaties. However, treaties have no force in domestic law unless enacted into law by Parliament. All they are, until enacted into law, are expressions of international relations, Mr. Astaphan explained.
“Sir Shridath is dead wrong when he says Roosevelt Skerrit acted illegally because he needed parliamentary approval to sign on to ALBA. That suggestion of illegal conduct or illegality is constitutional nonsense. Where Sir Shridath would be right was if he had said that Parliament had to enact ALBA into law before it could bind citizens and the state! Right now ALBA has no legal force or effect. It is a mere expression of intent in international law.
“On the other hand, the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas has been enacted into law by the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Dominica. Unlike ALBA, which is a mere treaty, the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas has the full force of law. Therefore ALBA cannot alter, modify or repeal any provisions of the laws dealing with CARICOM or the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Consequently, any citizen or person can sue to enforce any relevant provision of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“And, if there is any conflict with ALBA and any existing rights or the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the Revised Treaty, as part of the laws of the land will prevail.”
According to the learned legal luminary, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas makes provision to enable a state to apply for exemptions or to permit it to export its products to another sovereign Non-CARICOM state.
“That does not mean that the Non-CARICOM state’s products will be imported free of duties. Any goods imported pursuant to any bilateral declaration or treaty will be subject to normal importation laws and duties and will not have the benefit of any CARICOM treaty provision or exemption,” Mr Astaphan wrote.
“The ALBA Declaration is nothing more than an expression of intent to cooperate on economic and cultural matters. Unless enacted into law, it cannot affect CARICOM or the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” Senior Counsel Astaphan concluded.