Judicial appointments: Event though rejected President says Benjamin will not be ‘thrown out’

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Despite being probed by media operatives on Wednesday regarding his apparent hesitancy in confirming the acting Chief Justice (CJ) and Chancellor of the Judiciary to their substantive positions, President David Granger provided no valid reason for his action- or lack thereof.

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

According to Granger, he was and has been acting in compliance with the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

“I am inclined to support the Constitution. The Constitution makes it clear, very clear, how the Chairman has to be appointed. I don’t have the authority to go outside of the Constitution…Everything I have done is according to the Constitution. If other people can tell me what part of the Constitution empowers them I would like to become aware with them myself,” he told media operatives at the side-lines of an event at State House.

Presently, the private sector and the Bar Association, among other stakeholders, are  calling for acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire and acting Chancellor, Yonnette Edwards-Cummings to be confirmed to their posts in the Judiciary.

File photo: Acting Chief Justice, Justice Roxane George (left) and acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards (right) pose with President David Granger after their appointments

However, Granger has rejected this, stating that he has nominated Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards- for the substantive posts of Chancellor and Chief Justice respectively.

President Granger met with Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on January 3, 2018 to discuss those appointments.

However, after doing his due diligence, Jagdeo subsequently  rejected the President’s nominees.

Jagdeo said that he remained cognizant of the fundamental importance of securing substantive appointments to these two high constitutional offices.

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

“As a result, I am committed to continuous engagement with your Excellency until there is due compliance with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution” he explained.

Article 127 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana states “The Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.”

Questioned as to whether he intended to replace Justice Benjamin with another nominee, Granger responded in the negative.

“I took my time in making that decision and I am not prepared to throw it out of the window,” he said.

Meanwhile, when asked of his intentions to meet with Jagdeo to discuss the matter, the President said “I have other business to discuss with him, the appointment of the chairman of the Public Service Commission and some other Commissions and when Parliament gives me those names, I will put all of those on the agenda for the meeting.”

The Bar Association had issued a statement on the substantive appointments of the Chancellor and CJ and articulated, inter alia, that any action taken outside the remit of Article 127 of the Constitution, which govern those appointments, will be “unconstitutional, void, of no legal effect and would have embarrassing consequences.”

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