Chancellor, CJ appointments: Opposition Leader awaiting word of President on mode of engagement

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Despite President David Granger saying that he is awaiting word from the Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, as it pertains to the substantive appointments of Chancellor and Chief Justice (CJ), Jagdeo noted that he was waiting on the President to get back to him on the mode of future discourse.

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger

“He is the President of Guyana. He has to initiate. I have already given my position. I said I am prepared to engage you further. He has to get back to me on the mode of engagement. That is my position,”Jagdeo said during a press conference on Wednesday.

A few days ago, President David Granger had said there is nothing left to discuss on the matter. The Head of State had said he had looked forward to a timely settlement of the appointment, which many deem critical to the effective functioning of the judiciary, but that didn’t happen.

“The ball is in the court of the Leader of the Opposition. I made my proposals, he simply rejected them. He has not made any counter-proposals, so there is nothing to discuss,” President Granger said.

Asked whether he has received legal advice on the way forward in regard to these appointments, Granger said, “I know what needs to be done. I am well advised. But I have to wait on the Leader of the Opposition to respond to my proposal.”

Jagdeo however, reminded that in his letter, he had committed to continuous engagement with the President.

“He then went to the media and said we will not allow one man to hold this up and I had to subsequently point out that he himself, as Opposition Leader, held it up for nearly six years. And I had one month. And he said (he) was now seeking legal advice,” Jagdeo recalled. “He has not said a word to the country about what the legal advice recommended, he has not gotten back to me and he now woke up and says, because I think he forgot everything in between that the ball is in my court. I believe he still thinks he’s waiting on me for a reply. This is serious!”

Justice Kenneth Benjamin and current acting Chancellor Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards

Justice Kenneth Benjamin was nominated for the position of Chancellor of the Judiciary, while Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, the current acting Chancellor, has been nominated for the position of Chief Justice.

Concerns have been raised by the Bar Association in Belize about Benjamin’s failure, up to recently, to clear a backlog of cases by writing his decisions.

Jagdeo, in a letter addressed to the President, had said that after having duly considered the nominations of Justice Benjamin and Justice Cummings-Edwards under Article 127 (2) of the Constitution, he is unable to offer his agreement for their appointments.

However, the Opposition Leader has since indicated his willingness to further engage the President on substantive appointments to the top judicial positions.

To this end, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, subsequently said Government will be going ahead with “meaningful consultations” between the two sides, as provided for in the Constitution.

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