The no-confidence case will be a test for the CCJ

Dear Editor,       

All eyes are now on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which will, within the next weeks/months, hear the most important case(s) in the history of Guyana. Their decision will decide whether or not the coalition APNU+AFC government can continue in office until May next year, or they should have demitted office since March 23 last. This case, no doubt, will be a test for the regional court to prove to the world that it is capable to deal with complex and controversial cases which determine the fate of governments. Most governments in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have doubts of the court hence why only four jurisdictions, Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica, have abolished appeals to the Privy Council.

I am a strong advocate of the Court. I have been voicing my opinion long before the institution was inaugurated in April 2006. I was lending support since 1990 when the attorneys general of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, along with the then Legal Consultant to CARICOM, Bryn Pollard, were jetting around the region whipping up support for the CCJ.  Unfortunately, neither Jamaica nor Trinidad has yet joined the Appellate Division of the CCJ.

The issue before the court is whether the no-confidence motion was properly passed since it was done by a majority of 33-32 and not by an absolute majority which requires 34 votes. There are other issues which include whether the mover of the motion, Charrandass Persaud, could have properly voted in favour of the motion since he was a citizen of Canada. There are several other Parliamentarians from both sides of the House who have dual nationalities.

Both the APNU+AFC government and the opposition PPP are confident that the CCJ will rule in their favour, but one of them will be disappointed at the outcome since whatever the decision is, it would be final. There is already quiet grumbling by a few that they cannot trust the court since judges are from the region and might be persuaded by other considerations, other than legal. They prefer the “white man” from England. It is unfortunate that a few entertain such immature and racial thoughts. The CCJ has an impeccable record and decisions by the court have been praised by legal luminaries in the region and the Commonwealth. 

There is no Guyanese judge in the current seven-member panel comprising Vincentian Adrian Saunders (President), a highly respectable jurist who was with the court from the inception, Jacob Wit (Holland), David Hayton (UK), Winston Anderson (Jamaica), Maureen Rajnauth-Lee (Trinidad and Tobago), Denys Barrow (Belize) and Andrew Burgess (Barbados). There were two Guyanese when the court was inaugurated, Desiree Bernard and Duke Pollard. They both retired. Pollard in 2010 and Bernard in 2014. Two brilliant Presidents Michael de la Bastide and Sir Dennis Byron have also retired as well as Rolston Nelson.

We are all awaiting on the court’s decision which we hope would be out by the end of April.

Yours faithfully,

Oscar Ramjeet

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