Home Letters The region will focus on CCJ rulings on Guyana
The CCJ’s President (equivalent of Chancellor in Guyana) celebrated 14 years of its existence on April 16 bragging about its 34 judgments. Does the court render fair objective rulings? Do the people of the region really want or trust the court or prefer to return to the London Privy Council? The Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, described the court judges as “politicians in robes” and promises to pull her country out of it and return to the London Privy Council.
Many of the CCJ’s judgments would not pass muster if appealed to the Privy Council. The late Queens Counsels, Fenton Ramsahoye and Karl Hudson Phillips, told me that Law Lords in England laugh at some of the judgments rendered by the CCJ. Other Senior and Queens Counsels I spoke with in Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica, and Barbados said many of the rulings of the CCJ would have been reversed if appeals were allowed in the Privy Council. Politicians, lawyers, laymen and former judges I spoke with in the region say “thank God for the Privy Council” when referring to some of the judgments of the CCJ. In other words, they are saying their country’s judicial system is best protected with the Privy Council as the final court of appeal. Many said that the Law Lords would not have accepted the CCJ’s ruling that Parliament is supreme over the people in amending the Constitution. The British Government held a referendum on whether the UK could break away from the European Union.
It is noted that the CCJ was launched without the approval of the people in the region. Of the four nations (Guyana, Barbados, Dominica and Belize) that accept the CCJ as the final court of appeal, not one of them held a referendum on accepting its jurisdiction. Referendums held in Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines rebuffed the court as the final court of appeal; the people prefer the Privy Council. The Barbados Government had promised to hold a referendum before accepting the CCJ as its final court but changed course when public opinions revealed that the court would be rejected in a referendum vote. Instead, the Government joined the court without the promised referendum.
In opinion polls I conducted in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts, Antigua and Guyana, the population overwhelmingly oppose the CCJ as the final court of appeal for their country. In a survey I conducted just last week in Trinidad, voters reject the CCJ by two to one. Voters said they have greater faith in the Privy Council of London. The people feel that the Privy Council (dubbed as the White Man court) renders impartial justice.
The seven judges of the CCJ and their staff should visit the four countries where the CCJ has jurisdiction to get the population’s view on the court. They will be surprised by the findings. If the Chief Justice (President Adrian Saunders) has faith in the court, he should urge the four Governments to hold a referendum on whether each should continue with having the CCJ as their final court of appeal or return to the Privy Council.
The people in the region will be looking at the judgments in two upcoming important court cases relating to the appointment of GECOM Chair and the no-confidence motion — whether 33 is a simple majority and/or absolute majority of 65 and whether an absolute majority is needed for a no-confidence motion. The CCJ judgments will determine whether long-held mathematical concepts (like majority and absolute majority) have to be redefined and whether amendments to a Constitution have legality. Can a judge rule whether 3 is not greater than 2 and people accept it? Queens Counsels and Law Lords are having a field day in the UK upon learning that two judges say that 33 is not a majority (and not an absolute majority) of 65.
Vishnu Bisram (PhD)