On Wednesday last the public was treated to a brilliant and expansive lecture by the former Chancellor (ag) of the Judiciary and now Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence at the University of Guyana, Carl Singh. The subject was “The Constitutional Guarantee of Fundamental Rights and the Citizen. The lecture, to a packed hall and attentive audience at Herdmanston House, was the third in the series “Conversation on Law and Society.” Chancellor Singh started by pointing out that while citizens may not always be cognizant of what their right are, they are certainly aware that the Constitution guarantees them, which they are often prepared to aggressively defend. He related the story of a visitor to a hospital in Georgetown who was being prevented from entering because the visiting hours had come to an end. During the argument between the visitor and the hospital staff, the visitor loudly proclaimed that it was her constitutional right to enter the hospital to visit her relative!
Chancellor Singh explored a wide range of issues, not all of which can be examined here. A few are selected.
By Article IV(1) of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela committed to choosing one of the means of peaceful settlement provided for by article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations (UN), if the Mixed Commission did not arrive at a full agreement for the settlement of the controversy within four years. Judicial settlement was one of those means under article 33. But the part of the article providing for the parties to choose the means of settlement is qualified by Article V. It provides that they are to refer the decision of the means of settlement to an “appropriate international organ on which they both agree,” but failing agreement “to the Secretary General of the United Nations.”
After the conclusion of the mandate of the Mixed Commission, the Governments of Guyana, Venezuela and the United Kingdom entered into an agreement known as the Port of Spain Protocol in June, 1970, which suspended the operation of Article IV of the Geneva Agreement for twelve years. This meant effectively that the formal search under Article IV for a resolution of the controversy was suspended for the period. Guyana and Venezuela undertook to “explore all possibilities of better understanding between them.”
The results of the referendum held in Britain to determine whether or not it should remain in or leave the European Union (EU), has been won by voters who supported the leave option. Prime Minister David Cameron attempted to resolve the opposition within the Conservative Party to membership of the European Union by way of a referendum, when there was no national demand for it. Cameron gambled the entire future of Great Britain. He and the British people lost instead. Speculation is now rife as to the future of the EU.
The British economy is expected to be severely dislocated and damaged. Predictions are that economic growth will plummet and that the economy will contract. Britain will lose at one fell swoop the privileged access to the large European internal market for its goods and services. Access will also be lost to the fifty or so markets with which the EU has trade agreements. A range of industries from health to automotive will feel the negative impact. Britain’s pre-eminence as a financial centre is likely to be lost. While some of these negative effects will be overcome by negotiated agreements over time, including of necessity with the Caribbean Community, it is the uncertainties that will be damaging. These uncertainties are being reflected in the billions lost in financial markets and currency depreciation on Friday.