AG Williams maintains CCJ does not have jurisdiction to hear case

—‘CCJ is not a court of unlimited jurisdiction”- SC Armour argues

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Basil Williams SC., on Wednesday, maintained that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) does not have the jurisdiction to hear the appeal matter filed by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

The Attorney General in his remarks highlighted that Section 4:3 of the CCJ Act states that the court was “not vested to have any jurisdiction to hear matters in relation to any matter of the Court of Appeal which at the time the CCJ act came into force was declared final.”

On the matter of why the applicant Eslyn David requested an interpretation of the term “more votes cast” the AG explained that “the reason for introducing valid in Article 177 (2) (b) is simple, fraudulent votes. The elections produced fraud of an unprecedented scale in the history of elections in Guyana and therefore every precaution had to be taken to ensure that in the Presidential Elections also, in Article 177 [(2) (b)], that if more votes are cast, should be crystalised.”

Further, AG Williams explained that Article 163 of Guyana’s Constitution gives the High Court jurisdiction to deal with matters pertaining to the election of members of the National Assembly.

He reminded, however, the President is not a member of the National Assembly, and that it is Article 177(4) that gives the Court of Appeal full authority to determine the validity of the election of the president to the extent that the matter deals with the qualification of the persons for election or the interpretation of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Senior Counsel (SC) Reginald Armour who appeared for Joseph Harmon argued that “the Caribbean Court of Justice is not a court of unlimited jurisdiction.”

He emphasised that the CCJ is a regional apex court that presides over signatory sovereign member states and derives its jurisdiction and powers solely from the terms of the agreement that established the CCJ.

“You have to take into consideration, the pre-eminence of the sovereignty of the members of the Caribbean community which have come together consensually to give jurisdiction to this court to be apex court for the member territory,” he stated.

Pointing to the preamble of the very agreement that established the CCJ, SC Armour noted that it “speaks of the desirability of entrenching this court in their national constitution. The objective, therefore, is to respect the supremacy of the constitution. In this case, the supremacy of the constitution of Guyana is declared as the supreme law of Guyana and any other law that is inconsistent with it, that other law to the extent to that inconsistency be void.”

Therefore, he argued that the CJJ could not assume jurisdiction because it would breach Article 177 (4) of Guyana’ Constitution and Part II of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act Cap 3:07.

The submissions were heard by President Hon Justice Adrian Saunders, Hon Justice Jacob Wit, Hon Madam Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Hon Justice Denys Barrow and Hon Justice Peter Jamadar.

The Caribbean Court of Justice will next Wednesday, July 8, rule on the appeal by the PPP challenges the decision of Guyana’s Court of Appeal.

By Anara Khan and Isaiah Braithwaite.