The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) continues its extreme bias and open hostility to Guyana’s ruling APNU+AFC coalition, which represents over half of the population of Guyana. Yesterday, July 8, 2020, the CCJ overturned Article 177 (4) of the Guyana constitution in a highly controversial and politically motivated decision. This decision reversed the June 23, 2020 decision of the Guyana Court of Appeal (COA) mandating that under Article 177(4) of the constitution, only “valid votes” can be counted in a presidential election.

Only four of fifteen CARICOM nations have made the CCJ their apex court of appeal. This is so because the people of the nonmember countries fear that the CCJ will legislate rather than interpret laws and trample on their constitutions and sovereignty. This decision justified their fears. The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) therefore calls on the people of Antigua & Barbuda, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Montserrat, Haiti, Suriname and St. Kitts & Nevis, to block their governments from joining, or contributing financially to, the CCJ. CGID also calls on all other CARICOM states to defund and disband the CCJ. We intend to participate in a series of forums across the region to educate the people about the CCJ’s agenda to hijack the powers of their Parliaments and to legislate via judicial fiat as a de facto regional Parliament.

The Justices of the CCJ improperly and corruptly arrogated to themselves jurisdiction to hear this case although the Guyana constitution unambiguously bars the court from doing so. 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 of this constitution; and the decision of the Court under this paragraph shall be final.”

Whether or not the Justices of the CCJ agree with the Court of Appeal’s decision or not, the Guyana constitution expressly prohibits the CCJ from hearing and reviewing matters sanctioned by the Court of Appeal under Article 177 (4). Moreover, the Parliament of Guyana preserved the exclusivity of this idiosyncratic provision in Article 177(4) when it amended the constitution to make the CCJ Guyana’s apex court, through the Caribbean Court of Justice Act. Section 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.”

Notwithstanding the above provisions in the law, the CCJ held that the Court of Appeal improperly found that it had jurisdiction to hear Ms. David’s motion, and overturned the decision. Worst, although the appeal of the COA’s decision was the only matter before the CCJ, the justices overreached and without basis nullified the elections results submitted by the Chief Elections Officer. At a previous hearing on June 28, Chief Justice Adrian Saunders cautioned the parties in the case that the court could not undo what the Chief Elections officer did. Yet the court did just that.

This is an unacceptable overreach. Clearly the decision of the CCJ was not based on the Guyana constitution. Rather, it was based on the individual biases and prejudices of the justices who wanted to make a political statement about their preference in Guyana’s elections. Consequently, any analysis of the decision of the court can only be undertaken within the political context and milieu in which it was inspired and envisioned; and for which a political response is indispensable.

The framers of the Guyana constitution vested exclusive jurisdiction in the COA to determine matters regarding the election of a President, and mandated that that decision is final. Clearly the framers did not want foreign judges determining who should be the President of Guyana. This decision of the CCJ vitiates this safeguard. It is therefore offensive to Guyana’s sovereignty and repugnant to the constitution. CGID therefore urges the government and people of Guyana to reject it with the said dispatch and contempt with which the CCJ disregarded the Guyana constitution.

Moreover, the fact that four out of fifteen CARICOM nations subscribe to the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction demonstrates the people’s overwhelming lack of confidence and respect for the court. A majority of Guyanese also lack confidence in the CCJ. The people of Guyana did not have a say in the decision of the government to join the CCJ. This was an arbitrary decision by the parliament. The Guyana government must therefore take the question of Guyana’s membership in the CCJ to a referendum, or respond to the demands of the people and withdraw from the CCJ.

Rickford Burke
Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID)

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