The PNCR appears to have had no difficulty in accepting the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its appellate jurisdiction. The CCJ was established in 2005. As a court of original jurisdiction, its function is to interpret and apply the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Carribean Community. Hoping that it would replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) as the final court for most of the region, the Heads of Government agreed to clothe the CCJ with an appellate jurisdiction to determine appeals in civil and criminal matters for member states which cease to allow appeals to the JCPC and accede to the jurisdiction of the CCJ. In 1999-2000 the PNCR agreed, without having to be persuaded, to a recommendation by the Constitutional Reform Commission that the Constitution be amended to provide for Guyana’s accession to the CCJ when it was established.
In a statement published last Friday, Vice President Carl Greenidge reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the CCJ. Notwithstanding adverse decisions and that only four Caricom countries so far have joined the Court’s appellate jurisdiction, the Government was satisfied with its competence and quality. The CCJ was in the news recently when it held that a law which prohibited cross dressing for an “improper purpose” was unconstitutional. Also, the electorates of Grenada and Antigua, like St. Vincent a while back, recently rejected the CCJ as their final court in place of the JCPC. The steadfast support of the CCJ by the Government of Guyana is welcome to all lawyers and should be to all politicians.
Those of us who have lived in Guyana through the 1970s and 1980s, and the subversion of our judiciary in those years during which socialism was declared to be a legal precedent that should be followed, would recognise how vital the CCJ is to Guyana. Guyana was the only country in the Caribbean Region which had abolished appeals to the JCPC and did not have a final court beyond its Court of Appeal. It is no coincidence that Guyana was also the only country in the Caribbean Region, the independence of whose judiciary was substantially challenged. The presence of the CCJ in Guyana’s judicial life is a powerful stimulus to judicial independence, judicial rectitude, judicial administration, legal learning and to the confidence of citizens that their rights will be protected…..