The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will have to hand down the highly-anticipated third term decision by July 3, the day that the court’s President, Sir Dennis Byron retires from office, Justice Adrian Saunders, the President-Designate said last night.
Saunders made this pronouncement to reporters shortly after making a presentation on `The rule of law and the Caribbean Court of Justice’ at the fourth conversation of law and society, organised by the University of Guyana. Senior judicial officials, lawyers, law students, policemen and members of civil society were among those in attendance at the event which was held at Duke Lodge.
During his presentation, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines native did not make any mention of the case. He later explained to reporters that given that Sir Dennis was among the judges who heard the matter, judgment has to be delivered before he demits office.
The case was heard on March 12, 2018.
The Trinidad-based final court, will pronounce definitively on the challenge mounted to term limits by private citizen Cedric Richardson, thereby ending speculation about another run for office by former two-term president Bharrat Jagdeo. Jagdeo has distanced himself from the case and has repeatedly said he has no interest in running for a third term. However, he is now the Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the PPP/C. It is that party’s General Secretary who has traditionally been its presidential nominee.
The PPP has also distanced itself from Richardson, who has kept himself away from any public scrutiny.
The State had appealed decisions by both the Supreme Court and the Guyana Court of Appeal in favour of Richardson, who in the run-up to the 2015 general elections had challenged restrictions created by amendments to Article 90 of the Constitution that were enacted in 2001 after the bipartisan Constitution reform process.
His argument had been that Act No 17 of 2001, which was passed by a two-third majority of all elected members of the National Assembly to effect the term-limits, “unconstitutionally curtails and restricts” his sovereign and democratic rights
and freedom as a qualified elector “to elect the
person of former president Bharrat Jagdeo” as executive president.
The amended Article 90 of the Constitution states at Clause 2(a) that a person elected as president after the year 2000 “is eligible for re-election only once” and at Clause (3) that a person who acceded to the presidency after the year 2000 and served therein on a single occasion for not less than such period as may be determined by the National Assembly “is eligible for election as president only once.”
On July 9th, 2015, former Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang declared that the presidential term-limit was unconstitutional without the approval of the people through a referendum. In February, 2017 former acting Chancellor Carl Singh, and now retired Justice B S Roy dismissed the state’s appeal to Justice Chang’s ruling. Dissenting was then acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards.
In a more than six-hour long hearing before the CCJ, attorneys for the State had argued that amendments to effect the presidential term limit were done in accordance with the Constitution, even as those representing the challenger maintained that a referendum was required and that the two-term restriction is unlawful.
While Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes for Richardson told the court that the amendments could only be effected via a referendum, Attorney General Basil Williams in his address had said that the change is done by the elected representatives of the people in the National Assembly.