Presidential term-limit decision for CCJ

The Court of Appeal yesterday granted an application for an appeal of the court’s decision on the presidential term-limit to be referred to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The Appeal Court in February upheld a previous ruling made by then acting Chief Justice Ian Chang that the presidential term-limit was unconstitutional, resulting in both respondents filing applications for leave to have the matter heard in the CCJ.

The Attorney General, and former Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman are named as the respondents in the original court action, which was filed by Cedrick Richardson, a private citizen, in the High Court.

Stabroek News was told that the matter was heard yesterday by acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Appellate Judge Dawn Gregory and High Court Judge Rishi Persaud. After a brief hearing, the court announced that the application was granted.

In the Appeal Court ruling, Justice Carl Singh, then acting Chancellor, had argued that a decision on the term limits rested with the people via a referendum and not the National Assembly. Justice Singh had stressed that people should choose whom they “please to govern them” and noted that this is essential to all other rights.

Act No 17 of 2000 “waters down” the opportunity of the people of Guyana to elect the president of their choice though this is present in Articles 1 and 9, he said.

Justice Singh said changes to the features of these articles could only be done “by the people themselves” via referendum. He said that when Act No 17 “altered” the provisions of Article 90, resulting in an increase in the number and categories of disqualified persons who the political parties might have considered as their candidate, it “effectively suppressed the right of the people to freely choose those persons whom they feel should represent them.” He said that this right of the people to choose is now controlled by the National Assembly.

Justice Cummings-Edwards, in her dissenting opinion, expressed the view that Act No 17 “did not require approval by referendum.” She said that the amendment to Article 90 was not unconstitutional as Justice Chang had ruled. “The amendment was validly done,” she said, while adding that Article 90 did not either directly or indirectly alter, dilute, affect or amend Article 1 and Article 9.

Moreover, she posited that it was Parliament that set the presidential term-limit and later explained that it was the electorate who gave the National Assembly the power to amend the Constitution.

In an affidavit in support of the notice of application for leave to appeal to the CCJ, drawn up by attorney Roysdale Forde, Trotman had stated that the majority of judges erred in law in several instances. According to the notice, the relief being sought from the CCJ is for the decision of the Court of Appeal to be set aside or reversed.

Richardson had approached the High Court challenging the two-term restriction created by amendments to Article 90 of the Constitution that were enacted in 2001 after the bipartisan constitution reform process.

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