The Court which included President, Justice Adrian Saunders, Justice Jacob Wit, Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Justice Denys Barrow Justice Peter Jamadar, heard the online submissions of all parties in the matter on Tuesday July 1.
Guyana’s Attorney General Basil Williams appeared on his own his behalf, reiterating that the CCJ is without jurisdiction and ought not to entertain the leave of appeal.
Similar arguments were put forward by Lawyer for APNU+AFC’s Joseph Harmon Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, and Senior Counsel John Jeremie for private citizen Eslyn David, who had challenged the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) move to compile a report for declaration based on votes found to be fraudulent.
Parties in their submissions were asked to address four issues; whether Guyana’s Court of Appeal had the jurisdiction to entertain the Eslyn David vs GECOM Application. And if the Court lacked jurisdiction, what is the consequence concerning the proposed appeal to the CCJ.
They were called to answer if the Court of Appeal had rightly decided jurisdiction, what is the consequence of that in relation to the proposed appeal to the CCJ.
They were also asked whether the Court of Appeal rightly assumed jurisdiction and exceeded that jurisdiction, and what is the consequence of that in relation to the proposed appeal to the CCJ.
Because assuming jurisdiction of the matter would be a clear contravention to Article 177 (4) of the Constitution and the Part II of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act Cap 3:07, the Attorney General, Senior Counsels Armour and Jeremie told the court that they could not go outside of their ambit to take on the matter.
AG Basil Williams, maintained that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) does not have the jurisdiction to hear the appeal matter filed by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
He highlighted that Section 4:3 of the CCJ Act states that the court was “not vested to have any jurisdiction to hear matters in relation to any matter of the Court of Appeal which at the time the CCJ act came into force was declared final.”
On the matter of why the applicant Eslyn David requested an interpretation of the term “more votes cast” the AG explained that “the reason for introducing valid in Article 177 (2) (b) is simple, fraudulent votes. The elections produced fraud of an unprecedented scale in the history of elections in Guyana and therefore every precaution had to be taken to ensure that in the Presidential Elections also, in Article 177 [(2) (b)], that if more votes are cast, should be crystalised.”
Further, AG Williams explained that Article 163 of Guyana’s Constitution gives the High Court jurisdiction to deal with matters pertaining to the election of members of the National Assembly.
He reminded, however, the President is not a member of the National Assembly, and that it is Article 177(4) that gives the Court of Appeal full authority to determine the validity of the election of the president to the extent that the matter deals with the qualification of the persons for election or the interpretation of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Senior Counsel (SC) Reginald Armour who appeared for Joseph Harmon argued that “the Caribbean Court of Justice is not a court of unlimited jurisdiction.”
He emphasised that the CCJ is a regional apex court that presides over signatory sovereign member states and derives its jurisdiction and powers solely from the terms of the agreement that established the CCJ.
“You have to take into consideration, the pre-eminence of the sovereignty of the members of the Caribbean community which have come together consensually to give jurisdiction to this court to be apex court for the member territory,” he stated.
Pointing to the preamble of the very agreement that established the CCJ, SC Armour noted that it “speaks of the desirability of entrenching this court in their national constitution. The objective, therefore, is to respect the supremacy of the constitution. In this case, the supremacy of the constitution of Guyana is declared as the supreme law of Guyana and any other law that is inconsistent with it, that other law to the extent to that inconsistency be void.”
Therefore, he argued that the CJJ could not assume jurisdiction because it would breach Article 177 (4) of Guyana’ Constitution and Part II of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act Cap 3:07.
CCJ President Justice Saunders said the court will deliberate on the matter and give its ruling next Wednesday at 15:00 hrs.
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