Letter: Norton misunderstands Constitution on judicial appointments

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Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

The APNU/AFC proudly displayed on its Facebook page, a letter under the hand of Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who wrote on behalf of Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton, on an Office of the Leader of the Opposition letterhead, to the Honourable Gail Teixeira, to indicate that Mr. Norton wished that she be advised that he “is in agreement that Justice Yonette Cummings and Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire be appointed Chancellor and Chief Justice respectively. Senior Counsel Forde correctly referred to the appropriate Article of the Constitution which governs such appointments but Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde has done himself a terrible disservice to the dignity to which he was only recently elevated. Many members of the junior bar would recognize his blunder and would have refused to lend their name to such a precipitate bungle.

Assuming Senior Counsel Forde received instructions from Norton to write the letter referred to, he should have asked Aubrey Norton whether the President has proposed or advised him that he wishes to appoint these two judges to the positions mentioned. And it was for Senior Counsel Forde to tell Norton that it is only after such Presidential advice that he was at liberty to express his agreement or otherwise with the President’s proposal. Unless I am in the dark, I am not aware that the President has proposed these judges for appointment to the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice.

           Forde wrote in his letter that “the Leader of the Opposition is “in agreement” that these Judges be appointed. Referring to Forde’s letter, Norton at a press conference noted “in this regard the Leader of the Opposition has fulfilled his constitutional responsibility, since all that was needed is agreement, and I have agreed”. Norton himself would say, “as I understand it an agreement is arrived at between two persons who reach a common position on, for example, a dispute or an objective of one sort or another”. One dictionary meaning given to the word agreement is “a negotiated and typically legally binding arrangement between parties as to a course of action”. Another is “harmony or accordance in opinion”.

In the absence of a presidential intimation to Norton on the issue of judicial appointments, the question is, who is Norton in agreement with? Certainly, Norton cannot be in agreement with himself for that is not the Constitutional prescription. For Norton to say that by his precipitate expression of agreement on these judicial appointments he has fulfilled his constitutional responsibility is an enormous blunder on his part. It is such uninformed, ill-advised, misinterpretations of the Constitution that causes Norton to make more of the office he holds in a now well recognized, arrogant, threatening, bombastic way.

Aubrey Norton is precipitate. If by his erroneous remarks and by the letter he has presumably asked Roysdale Forde to write on his behalf, he wishes to force the hand of the President on judicial appointments, my considered view, is that if he was good at psychoanalysis, (and Norton obviously is not) he would recognize that President Ali is not one to yield to subterfuge. Aubrey Norton has clearly misunderstood a very clearly expressed Article 127(1) of the Constitution and the sequence of procedure therein outlined. His anxiety to indicate his agreement on judicial appointments is undoubtedly troubling to the people of Guyana and as GHK Lall would say, “It disturbs and is not at all encouraging.”

Yours Sincerely,
Selwyn Persaud