Home Features Where is the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)?
Where is the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)? They have gone awfully quiet, even as democracy is under assault in Guyana. Justice is not only denied when people deliberately or otherwise break the law and or when a Government recklessly railroad the Constitution, but also by the sloth of the judiciary itself. Justice delayed is justice denied. It is six months since the No-confidence Motion ended the life of the Government. The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) gambled that the sloth of the court will buy them time to avoid the elections. The CCJ’s sloth was one of the elements in APNU/AFC’s formula to buy time. The country is at a standstill, the economy is reeling from uncertainty, the elected Parliament does not know if it has any legal standing and the people’s welfare is held hostage. Everywhere, the same question is being asked, with utter exasperation – where is the CCJ?
Only Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica are using the CCJ as its last court for appeals. All the other Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries still proceed to the Privy Council of the UK as their apex court. In fact, the people of Grenada, Antigua and Bermuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines have rejected the CCJ as their final court. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have failed to overcome barriers to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ. The majority of Guyanese have never been comfortable with the CCJ as our final court. The recent cases going to the CCJ from Guyana have stirred the debate again. The sloth in handing down its decision on recent cases that have a direct bearing on the health of Guyana’s democracy have further caused Guyanese to question the decision to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ.
It is now three weeks since the CCJ heard four cases relating to the Guyanese Constitution. In each of these cases, the hearings were preceded by the submission of legal briefings, with the hearings intended only for clarifications. People now are suspicious of the delay. The reasons posited by politicians for having the CCJ are it would be easier, cheaper, more accessible and timelier than the Privy Council of the UK. Well, given Guyana’s experience, in all the cases that have gone to the CCJ so far, none of these reasons apply. Nothing the CCJ has done so far gives anyone confidence that the CCJ could more rapidly address judicial disputes than the Privy Council of the UK.
In certain constitutional matters, time is of the essence. Both the Guyana Courts of Appeals and the CCJ, by their sloth, have aided and abetted the Government to sidestep the Constitution of Guyana. The Guyana Government’s main goal is to buy time. First, the Guyana Courts of Appeal, with a March 21 deadline for holding elections, held its decision more than a month until the deadline passed. The CCJ is now holding its decision in a way that might prevent it from even slightly remedying any violation of the laws. By the time, its decisions are handed down, there would be even further violations of the law. As the court takers its sweet time, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has already embarked on house-to-house registration that its own legal advisor told them is not necessary, further compounding the problem.
In one case, the so called “GECOM Chairman” case, the appeal was lodged many months ago, but was heard only on May 8. Now, while Guyana is awaiting the ruling on this case, the Chairman whose arbitrary appointment violated the Constitution is acting as an instrument of the governing party, in effect as a fourth member representing the ruling party on the seven-member GECOM. In the other three cases, constitutional deadlines have passed and the governing party is achieving its goal, not of either winning or losing in court, but buying maximum time. The CCJ by its sloth in decision-making has fallen into the trap of the Granger-led APNU/AFC which cares not of the decision the CCJ makes, but only that the CCJ consumes time, allowing APNU/AFC to use State resources to buy as many votes as possible.
Guyana’s Parliament on December 21, 2018, voted in favour of a No-confidence Motion against the Government. Within the first 24 hours after the vote was taken, no less than both the President and the Prime Minister conceded elections must be held in accordance with the Constitution by March 21, 2019. But soon thereafter the diabolical minds within APNU/AFC conceived of a plan to get around the constitutional requirement of an election within 90 days. That included a reinterpretation of the Constitution, the imposition of voodoo Mathematics etc and a roadmap of judicial roadblocks to buy time. This past week, President Granger in a succinct statement summarised the goal and sent a stern message to the CCJ – “we hope to stay in office for the full term”. Unwittingly perhaps, the CCJ is delivering.