Letter: CCJ Affirms “this one in the bag” Race Statement
Guyanese (at home and in the diaspora) were on edge on Monday and early Tuesday morning on then prospective ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in the so called “Bharrat Jagdeo third term” case. It has been the talk among Guyanese everywhere (markets, public transport, offices, streets, etc.) abroad and in Guyana. A large majority of Guyanese want Jagdeo to run for a third term because of what they describe as the failed governance of the coalition administration. They have confidence Jagdeo would turn around the economy.
Guyanese also commented on the composition and professionalism of the CCJ judges with a majority saying prior to the ruling that they think “the judges will be biased against Jagdeo” to block him from running for President again. They also said an attempt was made to sway the judges by bringing up the racial affiliation of the judges. The coalition had sought to prevent Jagdeo from running again as President. Race and other non legal factors entered into the case through their introduction by officials of the government.
People I spoke with say there is much euphoria from coalition government politicians that Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo has been knocked off the PPP Presidential ballot by the CCJ. There is an air of celebration with political figures saying that the PPP will be weakened and vulnerable to defeat come 2020 without Jagdeo being the Presidential nominee as happened in 2011 and 2015 when the PPP lost support in general elections. Donald Ramotar could not win in 2011 and 2015 while Jagdeo carried the party to huge victories in 2001 and 2006. The CCJ, Guyana’s final court of appeal, overturned last year’s ruling of Guyana’s Appeal Court that Jagdeo could run again for President.The PPP now has a formidable challenge in choosing a Presidential candidate in the place of the very popular Jagdeo who is expected to play a leading role in choosing the Presidential nominee.
Other people I spoke with in high (independent minded) political and business circles say the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) blocking Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo to run for a “third term” affirms what the coalition government’s legal spokesperson stated a year ago: “this one is in the bag for us (the PNC led government)” because: “we know the judges; they are our people and the CCJ is controlled by our (African) people”. That set the stage for the undermining of the integrity of the CCJ.
Indeed, just as in Gecom, there are few Indians (5%) working at the CCJ and this has serious repercussions. There has never been an Indian judge in the CCJ since it was founded thirteen years ago and it has had only one Indian lawyer in its commission. The present court is comprised of four African judges, two Mixed and one White. The Chief personal assistant to the court and the person who often writes court’s decisions is an Afro-Guyanese. It is reported that he is the grandson of the Chairman of Gecom James Patterson whose appointment has been a subject of much controversy and legal challenge. Lawyers say Patterson’s appointment may wind its way before the CCJ in the near future as it is being challenged in the Guyana Court of Appeal.
It is not clear if the race of the judges played any role in the CCJ ruling against Jagdeo. But race entered into the discussion because of its introduction by officials of the PNC led government. Last April, it was reported that the court was split 4-3 in the decision and that it was trying for unanimity. Since that time, two judges were convinced to side with the majority. One judge (Prof Anderson) held out that the people are supreme over the parliament and that the people must play a role in amending the constitution via a referendum. The other six judges feel the parliament is supreme over the people. With the ruling, some critics say that the parliament can pass a law abolishing elections since it is more powerful than the people.
On the comment that government officials know the judges and that they would rule in government’s favor, there are reports that some of the judges are friendly with coalition government officials and were seen socializing at public events. There are also allegations of unprofessional behavior and conflict of interests. Nevertheless, it is felt that at least one of the judges should have excused himself from the case because of a serious conflict of interest. They named the judge. People also feel that the CCJ should have addressed the remarks of government officials of “our (African) judges and our African CCJ”. Race should not have been a factor in the case.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
You have to get a pound of salt,when reading the above.