Judicial appointments: President says Courts should not be “paralysed,” awaiting legal advice

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Despite Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo’s public rejection of the nominees – Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards- for the substantive posts of Chancellor and Chief Justice respectively, President David Granger on Wednesday asserted that he is awaiting legal advice from the Legal Affairs Minister to move forward as he does not believe that the Courts should be “paralysed by the behaviour of one person.”

President David Granger

Granger -who was clearly referring to the Opposition leader- was at the time speaking to media operatives at the side-lines of an event hosted at State House earlier today.

He noted that “we cannot be without a Chancellor and a Chief Justice . Right now, two persons are acting and I had hoped that we could have moved forward by having a substantive or full-time appointment agreed but this has not happened”.

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

The President further asserted that even though the Constitution requires the approval of the Leader of the Opposition for the nominees to be appointed, “it is not desirable to continue the current practice of ‘acting’ which existed for several years and I would like to have a substantive appointment. It’s a question of necessity.”

Granger and Jagdeo met to discuss the substantive appointment of the Chief Justice and Chancellor on January 3, 2018. However, after doing his due diligence, Jagdeo earlier this month rejected the President’s nominees.

Jagdeo, who had declined to provide reasons for the rejections only outlining that he did not want the names of the highly respectable persons being dragged through the “mud” as was the case with the GECOM nominees, 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 said.

Article 127 (1) provides that “The Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.”

Shortly after, former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and Member of Parliament (MP) of the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C) Anil Nandlall  said if there is any attempt to ignore the strict constitutional prescription as it relates to the substantive appointments of Chancellor and Chief Justice his party “will leave no stone unturned in a relentless effort to ensure constitutional compliance.”

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