The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) believes that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Guyana is a founding member, has become corroded and largely anti-Guyanese. Many of the Heads of Government of the community are disrespectful to Guyana, Guyanese public officials and State institutions. They have also consistently, openly treated Guyanese with disdain.
CARICOM Heads of government lack vision to enhance further integration. The grouping has failed to accomplish most of the goals it set for itself over forty-seven years ago. The CARICOM single market and economy has failed. Nationals are still required to present passports for intra-regional travel and apply for work-permits for employment in other territories. Only four out of fifteen countries that comprise CARICOM have ratified the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their apex court for criminal and civil appeals. Trinidad & Tobago, where the CCJ is based, does not subscribe to the court. This is an embarrassment and insult to the people of the region.
CGID has carefully studied the behavior of the judges at the CCJ. They demonstrate a contemptuous, extreme bias against Guyana’s ruling APNU+AFC coalition. On each occasion where matters in which the coalition is a party are presented to the court, the court over reaches and amends the Guyana constitution, via judicial fiat, to demonstrate its hostility towards the coalition against which Chief Justice Adrian Saunders in particular appears to be inherently biased. Guyanese will no longer put up with this contempt.
CGID is appalled that although the Guyana constitution makes it pellucidly clear that the Guyana Court of Appeal (COA) shall have exclusive jurisdiction in relation to questions about the qualification of a person to be elected President, or the interpretation of the constitution, and that the decision of the COA is final, the CCJ on July 1, 2020 conducted extensive hearing on this question in violation of the constitution. This provision exists because the framers of the constitution obviously wanted to retain questions about the election of the President of Guyana exclusively in the Court of Appeal and not in any court that includes non-Guyanese citizens.
Article 177(4) of the Guyana constitution states that “The Guyana Court of Appeal shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to the validity of an election of a President in so far as the question depends on the qualification of a person for election, or the interpretation; and the decision of the Court under this paragraph shall be final.” Moreover, the constitution preserved the exclusivity of this idiosyncratic provision in Article 177(4) when it was amended to bring the CCJ Act into force. Article 4 (3) of the CCJ Act states pellucidly that “Nothing in this act shall confer jurisdiction on the court to hear matters in relation to any decision of the Court of Appeal which at the time of entry into force of this Act was declared to be final by any law.”
The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) made an application to the CCJ to be granted leave to appeal the June 23, 2020 decision of the Guyana Court of Appeal which ordered the Elections Commission (GECOM) to only court valid votes cast in the March 2, 2020 elections results. On July 1, the CCJ conducted an extensive hearing that exceeded an inquiry to determine the question of jurisdiction. It allowed the PPP to present arguments on the merits of the Court of Appeal decision. The judges actually accepted arguments from the PPP, which sounded like an election petition. This has angered a majority of Guyanese in and out of Guyana. Some Judges even misguidedly speculated about the alleged actions of the Chief Elections Officer in the tabulation of the elections results, when such a matter was not before the court. This unfortunate situation is a politicization of the court and has eroded confidence in its ability to be fair and impartial. A similar bias was seen in the no confidence motion case in 2019.
In view of the aforementioned provisions in Article 177(4) and the CCJ Act Section 4(3), the very hearing which the CCJ conducted on July 1, 2020 appears to be repugnant to the Guyana constitution and an assault on Guyana’s sovereignty. CGID denounces this continuous, blatant overreach and the contempt some of the judges of the CCJ demonstrate towards some Guyanese. If the CCJ tries to overturn the Guyana constitution its decision must be rejected and the court should be disintegrated. No citizen of the region must countenance no-national judges overturning laws governing who must be elected to govern their country. These are the fears that justify why only four CARICOM countries have ratified the CCJ’s to be their court of appeal. We therefore believe that Guyana should withdraw from the CCJ agreement.
Furthermore, CGID believes firmly that CARICOM has failed the people of the Caribbean miserably. CARICOM has served no useful purpose to Guyana and Guyanese over its 47 year history. It functions more as a talk-shop and private club for elitist bureaucrats and their political allies. We therefore call on the government of Guyana to consider withdrawing from CARICOM. Guyanese don’t want to be part of this failed geo-political travesty any longer.