It has been in operation since early 2005, but a regional court that was designed to replace the British Privy Council as the Caribbean trade bloc’s final court of appeal is struggling to attract new members, as governments are shying away for one reason or another.

As membership stands now, only Guyana, Barbados and Belize send cases to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), leaving highly paid judges with the kind of reduced workload that wasn’t envisaged when its framers conceptualized its origins years ago.

Two other member states, tiny Dominica and St. Lucia, have done most of the work needed to become members, but the cruel irony of it all is that Trinidad, which is the home base and which has laid out world-class physical facilities for the court, is leading the pack of countries hedging on becoming members.

Jamaica, the other large and influential standout, has in recent months given the strongest signals yet that it wants to join up, but the opposition, the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), which was gung ho while in government, is now vehemently opposing the move to have regional judges hear Caribbean cases rather than white, bewigged law lords sitting far away and unattached in the U.K. Critics say the government of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has not shown the kind of political will to push for the CCJ either and hopes something positive is done before the general elections in 2016.

Clearly embarrassed by the current situation, Justice Anthony Carmona, the island’s newly minted ceremonial president, has in the past week laid bare his country’s plight as it relates to the CCJ, suggesting that the time has come to act as he opened the new parliamentary session.

In doing so, he did not miss the fact that local legislators have long approved bills and acts recognizing other courts around the world, including the International Criminal Tribunal dealing with the 1990s civil war in the former Yugoslavia, the one for the mid-’90s slaughter in Rwanda and the older International Criminal Court, which rules on war crimes and genocide in general. Legislation is sorely needed for the region’s own CCJ, he says.

“We have none that recognizes the final appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ. Why can’t we start believing in ourselves and our competencies? Let there be a vote of conscience, by secret ballot, on whether it becomes the final court of appeal or, if as parliamentarians you lack the confidence to make that change, place it before the electorate by way of public referendum on the ballot paper.

“The upcoming local government elections, in two months’ time, affords an ideal opportunity for doing this. We must no longer pussyfoot on the matter,” he said.”

Apparently touched by Carmona’s frankness, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said he agreed with the head of state, noting that “we should go to the people and let the people decide for themselves whether the Privy Council has outlived its usefulness, whether it has served us well, whether it should continue to serve us and whether there is a role for it in the post-Independence era, after half a century has elapsed. I support, therefore, the president’s call for a referendum on the matter.”