Third term decision to be handed down by July 3rd

28th May, 2018 0 comments

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will have to hand down the highly-anticipated third term decision by July 3, the day that the court’s President, Sir Dennis Byron retires from office, Justice Adrian Saunders, the President-Designate said last night.

Saunders made this pronouncement to reporters shortly after making a presentation on `The rule of law and the Caribbean Court of Justice’ at the fourth conversation of law and society, organised by the University of Guyana. Senior judicial officials, lawyers, law students, policemen and members of civil society were among those in attendance at the event which was held at Duke Lodge.

During his presentation, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines native did not make any mention of the case. He later explained to reporters that given that Sir Dennis was among the judges who heard the matter, judgment has to be delivered before he demits office.

The case was heard on March 12, 2018.

The Trinidad-based final court, will pronounce definitively on the challenge mounted to term limits by private citizen Cedric Richardson, thereby ending speculation about another run for office by former two-term president Bharrat Jagdeo. Jagdeo has distanced himself from the case and has repeatedly said he has no interest in running for a third term. However, he is now the Opposition Leader and General Secretary of the PPP/C. It is that party’s General Secretary who has traditionally been its presidential nominee.

The PPP has also distanced itself from Richardson, who has kept himself away from any public scrutiny.

The State had appealed decisions by both the Supreme Court and the Guyana Court of Appeal in favour of Richardson, who in the run-up to the 2015 general elections had challenged restrictions created by amendments to Article 90 of the Constitution that were enacted in 2001 after the bipartisan Constitution reform process.

His argument had been that Act No 17 of 2001, which was passed by a two-third majority of all elected members of the National Assembly to effect the term-limits, “unconstitutionally curtails and restricts” his sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector “to elect the person of former president Bharrat Jagdeo” as executive president.

The amended Article 90 of the Constitution states at Clause 2(a) that a person elected as president after the year 2000 “is eligible for re-election only once” and at Clause (3) that a person who acceded to the presidency after the year 2000 and served therein on a single occasion for not less than such period as may be determined by the National Assembly “is eligible for election as president only once.”

On July 9th, 2015, former Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang declared that the presidential term-limit was unconstitutional without the approval of the people through a referendum. In February, 2017 former acting Chancellor Carl Singh, and now retired Justice B S Roy dismissed the state’s appeal to Justice Chang’s ruling. Dissenting was then acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards.

In a more than six-hour long hearing before the CCJ, attorneys for the State had argued that amendments to effect the presidential term limit were done in accordance with the Constitution, even as those representing the challenger maintained that a referendum was required and that the two-term restriction is unlawful.

While Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes for Richardson told the court that the amendments could only be effected via a referendum, Attorney General Basil Williams in his address had said that the change is done by the elected representatives of the people in the National Assembly.

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Caribbean Court's incoming President wants coordinated overhaul of "broken" criminal justice system, says inconsistent rule of law major barrier to Guyana's prosperity

28th May, 2018 0 comments

Incoming President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders Thursday night declared that the inconsistent application of the rule of law in Guyana is a major barrier to the country becoming the most prosperous country in the region.

Delivering a presentation on the topic “The Rule of Law and the Caribbean Court of Justice” at the University of Guyana’s 4th Conversation on Law and Society, he said Guyana- a “very beautiful country blessed with enormous riches and a wonderful creative people” could only become prosperous if the rule of law is applied properly.

“The only thing that stands between you and prosperity is the consistent and thorough application of the rule of law. If, like any other country in the Caribbean you can get this right, but particularly Guyana- because you have these enormous riches-if you can get that right, then this country will be a shining light for all of CARICOM (Caribbean Community),” he said.

Justice Saunders lamented the state of the Caribbean’s criminal justice system, saying it threatens the rule of law due to insufficient investigations and limited forensic proof that result in the freeing of perpetrators. Another major stumbling block he cited was the “inordinate lengths of time” that prisoners are on remand awaiting trial. Reflecting on 2013 statistics that shows that 35 percent of Guyana’s prison population was on pretrial detention, he called that “very high” although Trinidad and Tobago, with more judges and magistrates than Guyana, remanded prisoners are about 60 percent of the total number of prisoners.

“To my mind, high levels of pretrial detention represent… a serious human rights abuse and this something we need to do something,” he told the audience that was made mostly of members of the legal fraternity who included House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland; former House Speaker, Ralph Ramkarran; Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards; Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire; Chief Magistrate, Ann Mc Lennan; former CCJ Judge, Duke Pollard; Law Professor, Harold Lutchman, several High Court Judges, lawyers and senior officers of the Guyana Police Force.

No government minister or high-profile opposition parliamentarian attended the event that was held at Duke Lodge, Kingston, Georgetown.

Other deficiencies, Justice Saunders identified, include no effective criminal case management system and insufficient mechanisms to serve the “peculiar needs” of women, young girls and vulnerable persons. “We have a criminal justice system in the region that is broken in many countries and tacking it is difficult because it requires the coordination of several different systems, each with its own priorities,” he said.

The CCJ President-elect called for the prisons, prosecutorial authorities, police, executive, Bar Association and defence lawyers across the Caribbean to “sit together and be on the same page and agree to a raft of policy proposals that will carry the system forward and that kind of conversation needs to take place among those various stakeholders”.

Justice Saunders identified several elements of the rule of law including legal certainty, procedural fairness, access to justice, independent and impartial judiciary, and protection against abuse and arbitrary use of power.

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