In light of the controversies stemming from a ruling handed down by now retired acting Chief Justice, Ian Chang, while he was on his pre-retirement leave, his successor believes that nothing was unusual with what he did.
Recently appointed acting Chief Justice, Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards, who was also on Wednesday appointed a member of the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC), explained that it has been the practice of Judges to come out of their pre-retirement leave to deliver decisions on cases which they have heard.
“The then acting Chief Justice had some matters that were part-heard before him (in which) decisions were pending and he came out and gave his decisions on that,” she stated, while adding that Justice Chang “had not demitted office… He was on leave and those matters were part heard before him… (and) he chose to come and give the decision rather than have the matter done over… there have been cases before where Judges, as far as I can recall, came out,” the new acting Chief Justice posited.
Moreover, Justice Cummings-Edwards further pointed out that the legislation is “silent” on whether Judges are allowed to deliver rulings in such situations.
The former acting Chief Justice on February 19 ruled that Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix and Junior Social Protection Minister, Keith Scott cannot sit as technocrat members in the National Assembly, since they are candidates on the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) successful List of Candidates for the May 2015 General and Regional Elections.
Following the ruling, several Government representatives, including President David Granger as well as Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, had expressed concerns over the fact that the then outgoing Chief Justice came out of his pre-retirement leave to hand down the controversial ruling.
The Head of State had subsequently expressed his surprise at the ruling, particularly, since Justice Change had to come out of his leave to deliver it. “It was rather regrettable that the former acting Chief Justice should come out of his leave to issue such an order… I was very astonished that Justice Chang’s ruling and the circumstances under which he decided to deliver that ruling,” the Head of State had remarked.
Furthermore, Attorney General Williams also posited that he was not given an opportunity to respond to the decision of the court. Nevertheless, Government has since successfully applied for a stay of execution on the ruling, thus allowing the two Ministers to return to the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Justice Cummings-Edwards, by virtue of her appointment as acting Chief Justice, was sworn-in as a member of the Judicial Service Commission by President Granger on Wednesday at the Ministry of the Presidency. Her appointment was a statutory requirement in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana.