Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. In a judgment released today, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) dismissed the appeal in the matter of Air Services Limited and others v The Attorney General and others  CCJ 2 (AJ) GY but emphasised the importance of meaningful consultations by public authorities with relevant stakeholders. The Court heard the appeal on 19 January 2021.
On 9 May 2016, the Ogle International Airport was renamed as the Eugene F Correia International Airport. The name change was approved by the Minister of Public Infrastructure, but the appellants did not agree with it. They contended that the Minister had a duty to consult with them before he proceeded with the renaming exercise, as such an undertaking would be harmful to them and their business interests. The Solicitor General conceded that the Minister owed a duty to consult with those who would be affected by his decision to rename the airport but submitted that this duty had been satisfied in this case.
Mr Justice Barrow, in delivering the judgment of the Court, found that the duty to consult in this case related to the question of whether the proposed new name should be approved or not. He noted that the appellants were able to discuss the name change, among other issues, at a meeting with the Minister on 18 November 2015. Following that meeting, they provided a brief to the Minister of all on the issues discussed, including the name change. In that brief, the submission in relation to the renaming required nothing more than to ‘Leave Ogle Airport name as it is’. There was nothing provided by the appellants that suggested that the Minister would not have understood the nature and substance of their objection. The Court found that the Minister took their concerns seriously enough that he commissioned a legal review of the lease.
The Court thus held that there was no need for further consultations, as advanced by the appellants. This was a case where the appellants disagreed with the merits of the Minister’s decision, for which the law gives no remedy. In a separate, concurring opinion, Mr Justice Jamadar emphasised that the duty of the Minister to consult is rooted in the Constitution of Guyana, distinct from any procedural rights based on other legal sources.
The judgment was delivered by the Honourable Mr Justice Denys Barrow on behalf of the panel, which also comprised the Honourable Messrs. Justice Jacob Wit, Justice Winston Anderson, Justice Andrew Burgess and Justice Peter Jamadar. A concurring judgment was delivered by the Honourable Mr Justice Jamadar. Mr Devindra Kissoon and Ms Natasha Vieira appeared for the appellants. Mr Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General, and Ms Raeanna Clarke appeared for the respondents.
The full judgment of the Court is available on the Court’s website at www.ccj.org.