By Shemuel FanfairWhile some observers are questioning the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) credibility after two Caribbean countries rejected joining the regional body; Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge has said Guyana stands fully behind the CCJ as its final appellate court. It has been 15 years into its establishment in neighbouring Trinidad and the CCJ only has four of 15 members choosing the court for final appellate jurisdiction.Foreign Affairs Minister Carl GreenidgeRecently, the electorate of Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda voted against joining the CCJ in nationwide referendums, opting to continue using the United Kingdom’s Privy Council as their final appellate body. Coupled with that, major island nations such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago (where the court is located) do not have the CCJ as their final appellate court, which is putting the credibility of the regional institution under scrutiny as highlighted by respected columnists and other writers in the Region. Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister however assured Guyanese on Wednesday evening that Government has full confidence in the decisions of the court.“The public can be assured that the Government will continue. If it is dissatisfied with decisions taken at the court at this level (Appeal Court in Guyana); we are reasonably confident that the Court (CCJ) will render acceptable decisions. Of course these are courts and you are never going to be able to guarantee with everything that you say. There is the question of interpretation of law,” the Minister pointed out.Some decisions of the CCJ have not found favour with Government, such as the November 2017 order upholding US$2.2 million judgement that was awarded to Trinidad road construction company Dipcon in 2015 by a High Court Judge in Guyana. This decision was handed down after the Judges at the CCJ observed that Guyana’s Attorney General, Basil Williams, had failed to file an application to the Court for special leave to appeal the case. Justice Rishi Persaud’s judgement was tuned to $455 million in local currency.Minister Greenidge while acknowledging that Government may not agree with all of the CCJ’s findings, said the Administration views the Court as a competent body.“We are not going to say that every decision that they make is the right decision but we are satisfied that the processes and the competence of the Court as currently constituted under the rules we have,” the Foreign Affairs Minister stressed.Responding to questions by Guyana Times, the Vice President outlined that from looking at many of the CCJ’s decisions with the benefit of hindsight, the court has taken the Region forward. He also maintained that the number of countries that joined the Court is not an issue as it “does not affect the quality of the Court.”In one of the CCJ’s recent decisions, Judges struck down a colonial era law that banned men and women from wearing clothing associated with the opposite gender. This effectively removed the barriers to cross-dressing locally, though both the High Court and Appeal Court had ruled that cross-dressing for “an improper purpose” was prohibited.Nevertheless, the Caribbean-based Judges declared that this characterisation was vague. Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica are the only countries that fully subscribe to the CCJ.
January 12, 2020