Judicial appointments: ‘This is not a cake shop, I wrote the President, he has not responded’- Opposition Leader

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File photo: President David Granger greets Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo upon his arrival at State House

Following President David Granger’s remark that Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo would have to justify his rejection of Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards as nominees for the substantive posts of Chancellor and Chief Justice respectively, Jagdeo responded to what he essentially termed the President’s double standard.

The Opposition Leader outlining Granger’s rejection of 18 nominees submitted by the him for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) chairmanship post without any justification, said that “You recall this very President saying he doesn’t have to give reasons for rejecting the 18 names that I submitted to him. Eighteen persons of reputation, people who are professionals, people who have the capability of being a good chairperson of GECOM and he didn’t have a problem with dissing all of them without any reason. Now he wants me to justify rejection of [his] Chancellor and Chief Justice nominees.”

On Wednesday, President Granger told media operatives that “[Jagdeo] has not told me what his process was in rejecting… If he can show that he has a similar process and justify the rejection of my candidate, it is something to be considered.”

However, Jagdeo posited he was never formally asked to make such justification.

“He never asked me (to justify my rejection)… I don’t conduct business, constitutional matters based on what I read in the newspapers. There is a process to this matter; you write me, this is not a cake shop. I wrote the President when he sent me the list and I said I didn’t support (his nominees). He has not responded in writing to me until now and that has been 78 months… So he might be talking around, when you catch him on the corners of public events but that’s not a consultation,” the Opposition Leader contended.

Moreover, Jagdeo did not say whether he would justify his rejection of the nominees if formally written to.

Nevertheless, he went on to say too that the President does not seem serious enough about the appointment of the top judicial officers given the manner in which he has approached the entire matter.

For months, there has been deadlock on the two judicial appointments, after the Opposition Leader rejected the President’s two nominees. Since then, there has not been any consensus between the two on the matter.

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.”

While the two Guyanese leaders are expected to reignite discussions on the nominations during one of their planned engagements this month, local stakeholders including the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) has been calling for the substantive appointments of acting Chancellor Justice Cummings-Edwards and acting Chief Justice, Justice Roxane George.

However, the Head of State had previously dismissed these calls, saying he went through the constitutional process and recommended a candidate.

Meanwhile last month, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders, said this current impasse has implications for the proper running of the Guyana courts as he calls on Guyana’s ‘political directorates’ to urgently resolve their issues and appoint the top judicial officers.

“Guyana has not had a Chancellor for 13 years since Chancellor [Desiree] Bernard demitted office to become a Judge of the CCJ. Since then there have been persons acting in that position… We are outsiders to Guyana’s political systems, but we are entitled to express views we have that directly concerns the administration of justice. But ultimately, it’s a matter for the Guyana Political Directorate and I just wish that steps be taken to resolve those issues,” the newly appointed CCJ President asserted.

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