Guyanese Manufacturers are being encouraged to seek remedies within the Courts for any prejudice they experience under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas when seeking to access regional markets.
The advice came from the recently installed President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders and it came minutes after President of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) Shyam Nokta complained of the challenges local manufacturers face when accessing markets across the region.
The exchanges were made at a Business Luncheon organized by the GMSA on Thursday.
Justice Saunders was the guest speaker at the event.
Justice Saunders observed that only a few private entities and companies have used the CCJ to make complaints and seek redress for unfair treatment in trade.
He also placed private entities on notice that they can bring an action against the state while making steady reference to the CCJ’s decision in Rudisa Beverages of Suriname vs. the State of Guyana.
In that case, the CCJ found that the environmental tax, a flat tax of GUY$10/each imported beverage packaged in non-returnable containers, violated the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that established the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) because it was levied only on beverages imported from Rudisa, a Surinamese company, and not on local beverage companies.
Among other things, the CCJ ordered that Guyana repay the full value of the environmental taxes paid by Rudisa/CIDI. This amounted to US$6M.
Justice Saunders said one of the challenges faced is having lawyers of private entities recognize and try to enforce the rights that the Treaty affords to regional companies.
He said business should not just grumble and complain if they come up against unlawful and unfair trade practices.
“Instead, do like Shanique Myrie… more people should be encouraged to use the services of the Court when there is a problem in exporting stuff or the way in which certain states treat businesses,” he added.
Shanique Myrie is the Jamaican woman who took the Government of Barbados to the Court over her ill-treatment by immigration officers in the island. She won the case and was awarded a substantial sum by the Court.
Speaking to the gathering of private sector officials, government ministers and opposition members, Saunders observed that Guyana is poised for economic take-off and could very well become the envy of other Caribbean sister states.
“The basic ingredients are present; large and fertile land, oil and minerals, natural beauty,” he added.
But the CCJ President stopped short to point out that the expected progress can be thwarted if there is an absence of good governance and rule of law.
He said there must be respect for minorities, observance of human rights, respect for the separation of powers and an absence of arbitraries.
In turn, Saunders said the people of Guyana can look to the CCJ to set appropriate standards in these matters.
“The Court has a special responsibility to ensure adherence to rule of law… an important feature of the rule of law is guaranteeing proper access to the courts and justice,” he added.