UWI lecturers question independence of Guyana Court of Appeal on political, election cases

Last Updated on Friday, 22 October 2021, 7:44 by Denis Chabrol

Law Lecturer, Ronnie Yearwood and Senior Political Science Lecturer, Cynthia Barrow-Giles (Barbados Today picture)

Two University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturers have strongly cast doubt on the independence of the Guyana Court of Appeal because of its rulings on political and 2020 general election cases.

Law Lecturer, Ronnie Yearwood highlighted that the Guyana High Court rulings had been all upheld by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) rather than the Guyana Court of Appeal.

“It seems often that the High Court and the Caribbean Court of Justice were on similar wavelengths and similar thoughts and reasoning. It was often the Court of Appeal where the judgement seems to go awry and then the CCJ correcting the Court of Appeal to say actually what the High Court originally ruled as the exclusive court to deal with electoral matters was right so we often saw that happen,” he told a virtual discussion on the topic “The Judiciary and the 2020 Guyana Elections.”

Senior Political Science Lecturer, Cynthia Barrow-Giles stated categorically that “I don’t want to impute anybody” but she said from the decisions made, Guyana provided a good basis for insisting on the need for separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the State.

“Some of the judgements that came out of the Court of Appel are highly questionable and that is why to a certain extent….Certainly, there might be a connection with the appointment process and some of the judgements but certainly in relation to the Caribbean, one of the things  that we have to focus on is the need to ensure that we really have a complete separation of powers in the region; I think  that was one of  the issues that clearly comes out in relation to some of the things that we saw coming out of the Guyanese courts in particular,” said Ms. Barrow-Giles.

She had been one of three persons who had scrutinised the recount of all the votes that had been cast in the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.

The CCJ had upheld Guyana High Court decisions on what had constituted a majority vote for the passage of a no-confidence motion, the validity of Charandass Persaud’s deciding vote although he is a dual citizen because the time period had passed to challenge his election to the National Assembly, the unconstitutional appointment of Retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, and the Chief Elections Officer’s invalidation of over 100,000 votes.

Former President David Granger has since  cited the need for election matters to be removed from the purview of the CCJ. “I am of the view that in internal electoral matters, we need to strengthen the role of our own Court of Appeal and my own interpretation before the CCJ’s involvement is that the Court of Appeal was competent to rule on matters on electoral matters inside of Guyana,” he had said on March 14, 2021 edition of ‘Public Interest’ interview programme.

Ms. Barrow-Giles and her two other colleagues’ scrutiny of the recount had been called into question by Granger’s A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change on the grounds that only a small percentage of the vote recount had been overseen by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) team.