Path clear to appeal Constitutional challenge case before CCJ

The way has been cleared for Attorney General Basil Williams to appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice, a local ruling constitutional challenge case in Guyana.

The Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld an application for the matter to be referred to the CCJ.

The Court of Appeal had held 2:1 – an earlier ruling handed down by then Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang, which had maintained among other things, that the two-term presidential limit in Guyana was in fact unconstitutional.

The decision to refer the matter to the CCJ was presided over by acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Appellate Judge Dawn Gregory and High Court Judge Rishi Persaud.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman and Attorney General Basil Williams are named as the respondents in the original court action, which was filed by Cedrick Richardson in the High Court.

Justice Carl Singh, then acting Chancellor, had argued in the Appeal Court ruling that a decision on the term-limit rested with the people via a referendum and not the National Assembly.

He had sought to impress the point that people should choose whom they “please to govern them” and noted that this is essential to all other rights.

During the February decision, Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh was supported by Justice of Appeal, B S Roy in upholding Justice Chang’s decision. Chief Justice (ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards, who also sat on the panel, gave a dissenting judgement.

The former CJ’s ruling was based on a Constitutional challenge, filed on behalf of Georgetown resident, Cedric Richardson in February, 2014.

He had argued that Act 17 of 2001, which was passed by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly, unconstitutionally curtailed and restricted his sovereign and democratic right and freedom as a qualified elector to elect a former President as the Executive President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. Richardson contended that the limit was unconstitutional and illegal.

He also wanted the court to determine whether the amendment with a referendum should not have been held, instead of the two-thirds majority in the National Assembly having the powers to decide to limit the number of terms.

After several months in the court, the former CJ ruled in favour of Richardson’s argument but the decision did not sit well with Attorney General Basil Williams who had immediately indicated an intention to appeal.

The other restrictions were to also declare unqualified to run for the presidency, citizens of Guyana not resident in Guyana on Nomination Day; citizens of Guyana resident in Guyana on Nomination Day but who have not been continuously resident in Guyana for seven years prior to that date, and citizens of Guyana by registration.

In his Appeal, Williams had argued that Justice Chang “erred and misdirected himself in the law” in ruling that the National Assembly which passed Act No. 17 of 2001 is unconstitutional and of no effect as it failed to comply with Article164 (2)(a) of the Constitution.

The Attorney General said that he believed that Justice Chang also erred in ruling that the Act in question, in substance and effect, diminishes the democratic right of the electorate in electing a person of their own choice as President.

Williams also posited that Chang erred in law in not satisfying himself that the Court has jurisdiction to grant the reliefs sought.

In an affidavit in support of the notice of application for leave to appeal to the CCJ, drawn up by Attorney Roysdale Forde, former Speaker Trotman contends that the majority of judges erred in law in several instances and as such.

Trotman is looking to have the CCJ set aside or reverse the decision that was originally upheld by the Court of Appeal.