Guyana stands by non-jurisdiction of CCJ

−awaits Wednesday’s ruling

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is set to rule on Wednesday, July 8, on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal brought by the opposition PPP to have the ruling by Guyana’s Court of Appeal overturned.

On June 22, the Appellate Court gave orders to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to consider only “more valid votes cast” to determine the March 2 General and Regional Elections.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Basil Williams SC.

Senior Counsel Reginald Armour representing Joseph Harmon

A week after entertaining submissions in the Ali/Jagdeo vs Eslyn David and others application, the CCJ will hand down a decision which analysts say will either break the rule of justice or maintain a status quo of respect of constitutional sovereignty.

Analysts, both in the legal and political fields are hard-pressed that an assumption of jurisdiction by the CCJ will have irreparable constitutional and political consequences.

Guyana’s position remains that the CCJ cannot intervene in the matter. Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Basil Williams SC., has been steadfast in the binding power of Article 177 (4) of the Constitution and the Caribbean Court of Justice Act Cap 3:07, which prohibits any further appeal of any decisions handed down by the Court of Appeal.

On Monday, June 22, Justices Brassington Reynolds and Dawn Gregory both ruled that the Appeal Court had jurisdiction to hear a matter filed by private citizen Eslyn David, prohibiting the Guyana Elections Commission from making a declaration of the results of the election using votes found to be fraudulent.

David said the elections commission was bound by its own gazetted orders which had an objective of determining the credibility of the March 2 elections from the national vote recount.

The evidence emanating from that 33-day process and the report of the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) found that the elections were not credible as over 200,000 votes were affected by fraud.

The PPP has however approached the CCJ, with full knowledge that the Caribbean Court has no jurisdiction, to ask that the appeal court’s decision be struck down.

In his submissions last Wednesday, Attorney for Joseph Harmon Senior Counsel Reginald Armour cautioned the five-panel judges to not overstep the edict of Guyana’s Constitution and the CCJ Act. He said Article 177 (4) has formed the legislative history of Guyana since the 1966 Constitution and should not be trampled upon.

“Your lordships must be very slow, very deliberate and very careful to approach this case carefully within the context of the constitution and your treaty to determine the correct legal interpretation to be given to your treaty in relation to jurisdiction and to 177 in relation to the section under which the court of appeal correctly found as they did,” he told the panel led by President Justice Adrian Saunders.

Armour’s argument has been the talking point of every legal mind that has perused the Ali/Jagdeo application. Lawyers within and outside of Guyana have argued that Guyana’s Constitution is pellucid and should not be disrespected by any outside interference.

Senior Counsel Armour closed his arguments last Wednesday, reminding the court of the words of its very own Judge justice Winston Anderson who seven years ago addressed the inadequacy of the CCJ in entertaining such cases.

“He recognised in that speech of the CCJ in relation to sec 177 (4) as an impediment to the jurisdiction of this court. He expressed the wish that that situation be improved, but nevertheless recognized that “there is anything that the CCJ can do in effect” to change the constitution of Guyana.”

Armour said as hard as it may be for the judges of an indigenous court of Caribbean jurisprudence to recognise it; the CCJ court is legally constrained in this regard.

“While this is a case you may be constrained to agonise over legitimately, I say with the greatest of respect it is an opportunity for your lordships when you give judgment in this matter and decline jurisdiction as I exhort you to do, you may yet find an opportunity in your judgment to make a remark to echo the wishes of Justice Anderson to ask your members to amend their constitution to give you the jurisdiction which you now do not have,” he said.

The CCJ will rule on Wednesday at 15:00 hours.

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