Will Guyana Third Term CCJ Appeal be decided by Race of Judges

Will Guyana Third Term CCJ Appeal be decided by Race of Judges

Photo : Basil Williams

Dear Editor,

The Guyana third term appeal case (allowing a President to run for more than two terms) was heard middle of March at the CCJ and the ruling could come any time. The Guyana High Court and the Court of Appeal in Guyana ruled that a law disallowing a person to be elected as President for more than two terms is unconstitutional. The law was passed by the Guyana parliament. The Guyana judges ruled that parliament has no power to make such a law declaring that term limit can only be done by referendum of the people.

The PNC led Guyana government appealed the ruling to the CCJ which is the final court of appeal of Guyana. Appeals to the independent British Privy Council was abolished by the PNC government in 1970 after efforts were made to legally challenge election riggings of the PNC. After winning Guyana’s first free and fair election 1992, the PPP administration signed on to the CCJ as Guyana’s final court of appeal. 

Photo : Bharrat Jagdeo

A retired judge of African descent of the CCJ, advisor to the present David Granger led Guyana government, said the coalition (APNU/AFC) will prevail at the appeal because of the racial composition of the judges. It is felt by both Indians and Africans that racial affiliation may very well determine the outcome of the case. Race transforms into judicial power at the CCJ. Are Indo Caribbeans are at a disadvantage in the CCJ and by extension in the Caribbean particularly in plural Guyana and Trinidad?

Associates of the retired Afro Guyanese CCJ judge, who is also advisor to PNC government lawyers who appeared before the CCJ, said his friends are among the seven judges (five Africans, one Mixed and one white) who will rule on the case and that they will rule in Guyana PNC led government favour – based on racial affiliation. In other words, they say the CCJ Judges will not be impartial and will instead hand down a decision that is "racial" and that would in effect bar Bharrat Jagdeo from running for President since he already served two terms.  Ironically, then President Jagdeo signed the two term bill making it law. He said he has no interest to seek a third term.

Recently, it is reported in the Guyana media as well as in social media that the Attorney General of Guyana, Basil Williams, said “our people (meaning Africans) are in control of the CCJ and will rule in our favour”. In short, he insinuates that the CCJ judges will render a political decision based on racial affiliation. Guyana politics, like Trinidad politics, is racially polarized. Obviously, racial composition of the CCJ would matter on judicial ruling.

Just two weeks after the CCJ held oral arguments on the matter, a Minister of government in Guyana, told a public gathering that he knows the outcome of the case. He reportedly said: “We already have the judgment.  The judges ruled in our favor.  Jagdeo can’t run for a third time. The judgment will be out soon in the public”.

Will the CCJ be impartial on this matter? Has the CCJ ever been fair and impartial on matters before it involving parties who are of opposing races? Why does the Guyana government feel the CCJ will make a ruling based on race? Why isn't there any judge of Indian descent on the CCJ since its inception? After all the Caribbean is a pluralistic society and institutions like CCJ should reflect composition of the population. Can Indo Caribbean and the PPP trust the CCJ to be impartial and fair?

Yours truly,

Yasmeen Khan