CCJ has Sovereignty over Guyana

CCJ has Sovereignty over Guyana
Photo : Dr. Vishnu Bisram

Two Guyana government Ministers were reported to have said that Guyana is a sovereign country (whatever that means) and that the CCJ cannot instruct Guyana how to run its affairs (including holding elections or replacing the chairman of Gecom). In other words, the Ministers feel the CCJ has no sovereignty over Guyana. The Ministers are wrong and are on a war footing for which there is no justification.  The statements were made out of complete ignorance. By the way, a court or another nation or regional or international body does not need jurisdiction to intervene in the affairs of another country. There are ample precedents for intervention especially when basic rules are not followed like following orders of the CCJ or basic rights violated including the refusal to hold elections.  Guyana could face serious consequences if it remains intransigent to and defiant of CCJ consequential orders. The court asked the two opposing sides, government and opposition, to come to an agreement on a way forward now that the no confidence motion was validly passed. The constitution is clear on what must happen when a government loses a no confidence motion – new elections within three months. 

Although I am not a lawyer, I am versed in constitutional matters and the concept of sovereignty. When I was doing doctoral studies in political science, my field of specialization was international relations. But students were also mandated to take doctoral courses in each of at least three of five sub-fields. Two sub-fields I did were American constitutional law and international law.  And when I undertook graduate studies in educational management to become an Administrator in Higher Education, one requirement was courses in American Educational Law that focused heavily on Education Constitutional Law.  I also taught constitutional law. Thus, I am knowledgeable on constitutional and international legal matters. I can say without any fear of being contradicted that the CCJ has sovereignty over Guyana because of a treaty the government signed (the PNC government at that) in 1973. Also, elections must be held unless the opposition agrees with a postponement of polls after the ninety days limit.

Contrary to what the Ministers feel and say, the fact is, for the record, the CCJ is Guyana’s final court of appeal. The CCJ is part of Guyana’s sovereignty that happens to be located in another territory – not different from say when the Privy Council was Guyana’s final court of appeal. So those two Ministers must be reprimanded for their statements – words of defiance against the court and should be sanctioned (served with into contempt charges for attacking the court which is a separate and independent branch of our government). Can you imagine government officers telling the Privy Council it had no jurisdiction over Guyana when the court had standing before the dictator Forbes Burnham broke the link without legitimate approval! No wonder the white people laugh at us for our stupidity. Already the judges in Guyana have shown they don’t know simple maths on how to calculate a majority and also experience challenges in understanding what they read in the constitution. I travel to UK, India, Singapore, Malaysia, and throughout the Caribbean, the Guyanese judges are being ridiculed making the diaspora feel embarrassed and insulted. Now, Ministers of government are adding to the embarrassment revealing their ignorance that they don’t know that the CCJ is Guyana’s court.

Those of us who study international law or “domestic law” would now that the CCJ has jurisdiction and even if you are not schooled in law commonsense tells you that the CCJ has jurisdiction over Guyana’s and can compel government officials or citizens to carry out acts. The CCJ can also order the arrest of officials for contempt although it has never done so in its history – that is the power of the court. And come Monday, the court should issues firm consequential orders and oversee their implementation itself since the Guyana courts seem to lack the ability to understand simple language.

The two Ministers and others who made idiotic statements need a lesson on the concept of sovereignty and judicial jurisdiction. How can we have regional integration if we dismiss the rulings of the CCJ? Chastising or even firing the Ministers will send a signal that the government respect the rulings.

On the CCJ consequential orders on Monday, the court should place strict timelines for the government and opposition to carry out orders. The Gecom chair should be replaced by weekend and elections held by end of September latest under international supervision to guarantee it is free and fair.