The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) on Monday called on Guyanese of all political persuasions to stop attacking the judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the regional court prepares to hand down its decision on a “valid votes” appeal brought by the People’s Progressive Party’s Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali.
“This conduct is unreservedly condemned. Of even greater offence is the use of social media by members of the society to launch unnecessary, malicious and contemptuous attacks on sitting members of our Apex Court,” the GBA’s Bar Council said in a statement.
The statement was issued the same day that supporters of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) cautioned the CCJ against finding that it has jurisdiction on the grounds that they would violate Guyana’s constitution. PPP supporters and officials have, on the other hand been claiming victory ahead of Wednesday’s decision by the regional court.
Saying that those who have been making comments about the judges amounted to an “offence”, the Bar Association said it “denounces censures all conduct and actions regarding pending proceedings because they are calculated to deliberately interfere with and prejudice the course and administration of justice.
Further, the GBA says the comments are made carelessly or negligently without due regard for the integrity and processes associated with the pending proceedings, prejudge the matters in issue before the Court and undermine public confidence in the Court and or administration of justice.
“The course of justice and the administration of justice in legal proceedings are critical pillars on which the rule of law rests. The pillars of justice are intended to stand robustly after many of us are no longer of this earth, let not our conduct today cause harm to the administration of justice that it will take generations to remedy,” the GBA adds.
The Association said it decided to “speak” because of the many comments by parties on all sides of the case as well as the wider public on Social Media and other communication channels including the Trinidad Guardian newspaper in which a full page advertisement in the was taken on 4th July, 2020. “We call on all to hold their voices, respect the processes of the administration of justice and thereby cease and desist your injurious conduct,” the association said.
Among those commenting up to late Monday was Political Science Professor, David Hinds who called on the CCJ to uphold the decision by the Guyana Court of Appeal that “more votes” means “more valid votes” in the context of the gazetted recount order and allow the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield’s report, which shows an APNU+AFC victory, to go through the process towards a declaration. “I have concluded that if on Wednesday, the CCJ rules that it has jurisdiction to hear the Guyana case before it, such ruling would be tantamount to an attempted coup. The barriers to the CCJ’s legal intervention are expressed in both the Guyana Constitution and the CCJ Act. There is no ambiguity in that regard. Since the CCJ is barred from legally intervening, any intervention would be political,” said Hinds, an executive member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) which is part of the governing coalition.
He said Guyanese are the “best umpires” to settle their problems as he feared that if the court were to rule on the case, Guyana’s seething ethno-political climate could become rather unstable.