I applaud your recent articles on the so-called Guyana Third Term appeal case that is before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). There appears to be an incestuous and conflict of interest relationship among the ruling authorities in Guyana, especially those handling the appeal, and the President (Chief Justice), Sir Denis Byron, of the CCJ. People in Guyana are concerned that there may not be a fair ruling in the appeal by the seven judges (four Africans, two Whites, and one Mixed). It is noteworthy that none of the judges is of Indian descent. It is also noted that the PNC coalition led government in Guyana has been publicly saying their race runs the CCJ and that it will rule in its favor even though the government has made a very weak appeal.
Photo : James Patterson
Just to recap, the case involves an appeal by the PNC led government in Guyana to the ruling by the High Court and Court of Appeal of Guyana that Presidential term limit (of two terms) is unconstitutional unless approved in a referendum. It was passed by an act of parliament rather than in a referendum. The PNC led government of Guyana is fearful of holding a referendum on the issue and has instead opted to go to the CCJ confident that the CCJ judges will rule in its favor based on race and an incestuous connection with the court. Guyanese want a vote on the issue, but the government is opposed. Public opinion is against term limit that would prevent former President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo from running again having already served two terms. Jagdeo is enormously popular in Guyana and would easily win the Presidency. So the PNC led government plans to do everything to prevent Jagdeo from running again. The PNC is determined to exclude the popular Jagdeo from the Presidency. The Guyana courts ruled Jagdeo is eligible to run again. But the Guyana government is seeking to get the CCJ to reverse the ruling and prevent Jagdeo from running for another term. The Guyana government has been boasting that the judges and various contacts in the CCJ, including an assistant to the Chief Justice (President Byron) of the CCJ, are friends of the PNC and would rule in the PNC favor.
There are two former CCJ judges, Duke Pollard and Desiree Bernard, who are advisors to the Guyana government. They provided advice on and helped prepare the appeal. Is it not a conflict for two former Judges of the CCJ to prepare a case that will be decided by the CCJ? And officials of the PNC boast that these two have influence among the CCJ judges and will convince the CCJ to rule in the PNC favor.
Another Guyana judge, James Patterson, who is an advisor to the PNC government, was illegally appointed Chair of Guyana Election Commission and his appointment has been challenged in the Guyana court that could make its way to the CCJ. Judges Patterson and Pollard were preparing the third term appeal to the CCJ. Judge Patterson’s grandson, Richard Layne, is the judicial assistant to the Chief Justice Sir Dennis Byron who is presiding over the case. Layne moved very quickly from being a lawyer (2012) to Judicial Assistant to Byron (2015); his appointment came as soon as the PNC was installed in office in May 2015. Layne prepares judicial opinions and offers legal advice to Dennis Byron on matters before the court. Conduct research for the President of the Court on all legal matters impacting the work of the Court. Layne also drafts, reviews and edits judgments to be issued by the Court. And he drafts and reviews speeches, addresses and lectures to be delivered by the President. The Chief Justice never publicly disclosed this conflict of interest. This linkage worries Guyanese that Layne could influence Byron on the case. Layne’s grandfather, James Patterson, Gecom Chair and Advisor to Attorney General Basil Williams, is a member of the PNC.
Todd Morgan (writing in Guyana Kaieteur News March 21) penned that Dennis Byron has another conflict of interest in the case. He noted that Basil Williams, the Attorney General of Guyana and who headed the appeal to the CCJ, publicly boasted that the Granger led government has had a very close relationship with Justice Sir Dennis Byron. Byron visited Guyana several times since the PNC led government assumed power in May 2015. On every occasion, he met with Ministers and legal advisors (including those who served at the CCJ) and officers of the PNC led government. Sir Byron has not denied these meetings or linkages with the PNC led government or that Richard Layne is not his judicial assistant. Shouldn’t these conflicts of interests be made public? Why has Sir Byron hidden them from the public?
In a visit to Guyana late last year, Sir Byron called on President David Granger of Guyana to make substantive rather than Acting appointments to the vacant posts of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice. The law requires that the President and the Opposition Leader agrees on the appointees. The political leaders can’t agree on appointees. Sir Byron seems to be suggesting that Granger can make substantive appointments without agreement from the Opposition Leader (a clear violation of the law) and let the latter go to court to challenge it as was done with the illegal appointment of Gecom Chair which is held by James Patterson.
Attorney General Basil Williams, other Ministers and Judge Duke Pollard, have been speaking openly about the case even though it has been sub-judice. They all say openly at public places that they have “the CCJ ruling locked down” – “the court will rule in our favor” on account of race and close affiliation of officers of the CCJ and the Guyana government. Basil Williams openly boasted that our people (meaning Africans) are in charge of the CCJ and the judges won’t rule against an African government especially if it will result in an Indian (Jagdeo) winning the Presidency and heading the government in Guyana.
Will there be a CCJ ruling based on an incestuous relationship and or race?