Private sector urged to turn to CCJ for redress

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first_imgThe private sector in Guyana and the Caribbean region as a whole is being urged to take advantage of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in seeking redress against Caricom member states, especially in regard to breaches of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders, delivering remarks at Thursday’s private sector interaction session, which was also attended by several Government MinistersThis encouragement was given by recently appointed CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders, on Thursday at an interactive Business Luncheon held by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown.“It is unfortunate that, over the 13 years that we have been in operation, only a few private entities have, to date, used the court to make such complaints,” Justice Saunders told the gathering of key private sector stakeholders, Government Ministers, and members of the legal fraternity.He explained that insertion of the CCJ into the Revised Treaty was done to ensure that member states discharge their obligations under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME); and in cases where they do not, he said, they are held accountable.“The CCJ is the engine – the hub – around which the CSME operates. It is the vehicle through which individuals and states can go and ensure that the promises, that the rights, that the obligations, that are set out in the Treaty arrangement are honoured and enforced,” he declared.The CCJ President pointed out that there is a particular article – Article 222 in the Revised Treaty — that is of special relevance to the private sector seeking such redress, since it allows for private entities to sue countries for breaching the Treaty, which is an agreement between states.Against this backdrop, Justice Saunders outlined a few decisions and rulings made via use of this article.Bringing his case closure to home, Justice Saunders mentioned the legal proceedings filed by Surinamese beverage company RUDISA International NV against the Guyana Government for imposing an environmental tax on each non-returnable bottle imported into the country, which the company said was in breach of the Treaty – a view the court also held. The CCJ then ordered Guyana to pay the company $1.2 billion in compensation, but after Government failed to make the payment in a timely manner, the cost was increased by $4 million. However, the Guyana Government and the Surinamese company later came to an agreement, with the latter slashing US$1.5 million from the amount awarded by the court.“Within CARICOM, the private sector is considered to be all one, and that approach actually led the court to order one state to repay millions of dollars in taxes it had imposed on a private entity from another state in circumstances where local private entities were being exempted. Some of you might be aware of that case,” the CCJ President said in referring to the Rudisa matter.Moreover, Justice Saunders also recalled the case filed by the Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) through its subsidiary, TCL Guyana Incorporated (TGI), against the Guyana Government, which had waivered a 15% Common External Tariff (CET) on cement imports.“We affirmed the principle that the Community could not trample on rights according to private entities, unless there was some overriding interest; and that overriding interest was, first of all, foreseeable and communicated to private entities in a timely fashion,” Justice Saunders noted.He also mentioned the landmark ruling by the CCJ earlier this year, which saw Jamaican resident Shanique Myrie being compensated in pecuniary damages in the sum ofBDS $2,240 and non-pecuniary damages to the tune of BDS$75,000 after she was finger-raped by an immigration officer before being thrown out of Barbados, back in March 2011.President of the GMSA, Shyam Nokta, in a brief presentation, noted that the relevance and importance of the CCJ may be disconnected from many Caribbean societies, given that it is physically removed from most jurisdictions.Nevertheless, the GMSA President asserted that, in recent times, much attention has been placed on the court’s rulings, whether on high-profile constitutional cases or regarding specific industries or business activities in general.last_img

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