-Way clear for Court of Appeal shortages to be addressed- President
President David Granger, today, administered the Oath of Office to Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire as they were sworn in to perform the functions of Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary and Acting Chief Justice, respectively.
Speaking to reporters following the swearing-in ceremony at State House, the President said that these appointments are a step in the right direction to ensure that the shortage of judges on the Court of Appeal.
“There is a shortage and we are moving quickly with the Chancellor and the Chief Justice, who have been installed, to have the Court of Appeal constituted; to have the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) meet to make recommendations and fill the vacancies as soon as possible.
“I am very confident that the new Chancellor is aware of the shortages and that…as quickly as the JSC could meet and the names submitted to me I intend to move ahead. I have no interest in perpetuating a situation in which there are insufficient judges. The backlog is being built up and I see the swearing in of a Chancellor and Chief Justice as a step in the right direction. So I expect that as soon as the JSC makes its recommendations I would be able to give approval and move ahead,” the President told reporters.
Responding to questions on claims by the Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jagdeo that the President had refused a prior list submitted by the JSC, President Granger said that he withheld approval of some recommendations until the new Chancellor could have an opportunity to review those recommendations. “I withheld approval because I sent the recommendations to the present Chancellor, who has agreed to look at them and resubmit a list to me. As soon as I get that list I will be able to act. So I did decline; I saw the list and I received some information and on the [basis] of that information I sent it to the present Chancellor and I am awaiting her advice,” the President said.
The full complement of the Court of Appeal is five Justices. The Court has been short of its full complement for quite some time and this was further shortened following the retirement of Chancellor (ag) Carl Singh and Justice of Appeal B.S. Roy, who recently proceeded on pre-retirement leave.
Newly sworn in Acting Chief Justice George will now sit on the Court of Appeal, bringing the current complement to two Justices. Chancellor Cummings-Edwards (ag), while speaking to reporters, explained that the full complement of the Court of Appeal is five Justices, while three are required to hear appeals on the Bench. She said that a meeting of the members of the JSC will be convened shortly.
President Granger made these two appointments of acting Chancellor and Chief Justice in accordance with the Laws of Guyana following a meeting with Leader of the Opposition, Dr Jagdeo on March 1. Article 127 (2) of Guyana’s Constitution, prescribes: “If the office of Chancellor or Chief Justice is vacant, or if the person holding the office of Chancellor is performing the functions of the office of President or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, or if the person holding the office of Chief Justice is for any reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, then, until such a person has been appointed to and assumed the functions of such office or until the person holding such office has assumed those functions, as the case may be, those functions shall be performed by such other of the Judges as shall be appointed by the President after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition”.
The President, during brief remarks at the ceremony, said that the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice are the most senior in Guyana’s judiciary and that their appointments are necessary in order to uphold the Constitution and for the administration of justice. The President congratulated Justice Edwards-Cummings and Justice George-Wiltshire on their appointments and urged them to continue to uphold the high traditions and standards of their offices. He also urged members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government to continue to respect the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Justice George-Wiltshire said that she is honoured to serve her country and that she will strive to make a difference in the administration of justice in Guyana. “We know we have our challenges but challenges are meant to be overcome. I will be supporting Justice Cummings-Edwards. She has put in place a number of projects and programmes over the past year and I will try my best to maintain the momentum that she has maintained over the last year. I pledge to be supportive of her and I look forward to the support of my colleagues,” she said.
Some of the immediate projects that she will be working on include tackling the backlog of cases as well as providing more sensitisation to the public about the functioning of the judicial system in Guyana.