Nominees to fill substantive position of top Judicial officials identified- says President

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Nominees for two top judicial positions have already been identified and could be appointed with the approval of the Leader of the Opposition.

This is according to President David Granger, who at press conference on Friday hinted at the possible appointment of a substantive Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary, but says that this could only be approved in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

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

While the President has not revealed whether the nominees who he spoke of are for either Chief Justice or Chancellor, he said he recognises the need to have these posts filled substantively.

The Head of State said upon assuming office he imposed a formula to have the posts advertised in the Caribbean region, to attract someone overseas and through that process the nominees have been selected.

At present, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards is the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, while Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire has been serving as the acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

President Granger reiterated the fact that both positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice were vacant and after a satisfying consultation with Leader of the Opposition as required by the constitution, he decided to appoint the two Justices to act in the positions until such time that substantive office holders can be appointed in accordance with the Constitution.

CCJ President, Sir Dennis Byron

The President’s remarks comes months after a scathing critique from the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Sir Dennis Byron who had in an address to the Guyana Bar Association touched on the issue.

The CCJ President had condemned the fact that since former Chancellor Desiree Bernard demitted office, an agreement has not been reached for the substantive appointment of a Chancellor.

“This has brought us to the situation today where the number one and number two officials of the Guyana judiciary have not been substantively appointed. This is a most unfortunate state of affairs,” the legal luminary stated.

“This situation has moved well beyond what ought to be acceptable in a modern democracy where respect for the rule of law is maintained. The Constitution envisages the judiciary of Guyana to be headed by officials who are substantively appointed and enjoy all the legal and institutional mechanisms to secure their tenure,” he continued, bluntly adding that the delay was a breach of the spirit and intent of the Constitution.

Article 127 (2) of the Constitution states: “If the office of Chancellor is vacant … then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of such office…the functions shall be performed by such other of the judges as shall be appointed by the President after meaningful consultation with the leader of the opposition.”

Commenting on this, Justice Byron noted that the language of the Act suggests that the appointment was to be a short-term one, before a substantive appointment. He noted that even from a subjective analysis, the Constitution never intended for the years it has taken to fill the substantive positions to elapse.

Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Cummings-Edwards was appointed by President Granger in May of this year. Prior to that, she acted as the Chief Justice from December 2015. She was never confirmed to the substantive position.

Justice Cummings-Edwards replaced Justice Carl Singh, who retired after acting as Chancellor since 2005. On the other hand, the current acting Chief Justice, Justice George, was also appointed to her position on the same day as Edwards.

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