..says in light of President providing Judges list for Chancellor to make recommendations
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Parliamentarian, Gail Teixeira on Wednesday said that the President of Guyana, David Granger, is undermining the independence of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by appointing the newly sworn in Acting Chancellor to recommend potential candidates for the position of judge at the Court of Appeal.
This, she asserted, is a breach of the constitution. As such, she is calling on the newly appointed Acting Chancellor, Yonnette Cummings-Edwards and Acting Chief Justice, Roxanna George to stand firm and uphold the constitutional requirements.
“The judiciary is the gate keepers of our democratic foundation and our constitution and we call on the acting Chancellor and the Chief Justice to continue to be dynamic and loyal defendants of the constitution of our country and to be firm and strong gate keepers to allow no erosion of the independence of the judiciary,” Teixeira stated.
The PPP parliamentarian explained that this is the first time since Guyana’s Independence that the Court of Appeal has been non-functional. This, in itself, she said is a violation of the country’s constitution.
“This crisis is taking place because of the President…The Judicial Services Commission had made a [list with a] number of names of persons to be appointed as judges for the past nine months or more ago and the president refused to appoint them,” she told media operatives.
She went on to outline the process involved with judicial appointments.
“[The] Judicial Service Commission makes up the list of potential candidates for judges and sends it to the President. The President merely has to appoint. If he has concerns he has to put it in writing to the Judicial Service Commission. [They] will review his concerns and then respond back to him whether they take his concerns into consideration or not, then the President has no choice; he must appoint.”
Teixeira reiterated that by stating in the media that he [President] withheld his approval for the appointment of members of the Judiciary, “he breached the constitution.”
Responding to questions on claims by the Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jagdeo that the President had refused a prior list submitted by the JSC, President Granger had said that he withheld approval of some recommendations until the new Chancellor could have an opportunity to review those recommendations.
“I withheld approval because I sent the recommendations to the present Chancellor, who has agreed to look at them and resubmit a list to me. As soon as I get that list I will be able to act. So I did decline; I saw the list and I received some information and on the [basis] of that information I sent it to the present Chancellor and I am awaiting her advice,” the President had said.
According to Teixeira “the constitution gives no such power and therefore the comment on the media that he [President] will, send the list to the new Chancellor and she will respond to him…He is entering a domain that is not his. The President has no power to nominate any Judge, it is solely in the remit and the mandate of the Judicial Service Commission,” she asserted.
Moreover, the Parliamentarian questioned the urgency in which the matter is being treated, recalling that the constitution was breached once before; when the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo was not given adequate time to consult on the matter.
Teixeira noted that it was however, bypassed since the matter was said to be an urgent one and came on the heels of Justice Carl Singh, retiring from the post as Chancellor.
However, she then lambasted the Government on their claim of urgency as she cited that it was only yesterday (Tuesday)- three weeks from when the matter was deemed urgent- that the new Acting Vice Chancellor and Acting Chief Justice were appointed.
On Tuesday, President David Granger, administered the Oath of Office to Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire as they were sworn in to perform the functions of Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary and Acting Chief Justice, respectively.
Speaking to reporters following the swearing-in ceremony at State House, the President said that these appointments are a step in the right direction to ensure that the shortage of Judges on the Court of Appeal is rectified.
“There is a shortage and we are moving quickly with the Chancellor and the Chief Justice, who have been installed, to have the Court of Appeal constituted; to have the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) meet to make recommendations and fill the vacancies as soon as possible” said Granger.
The full complement of the Court of Appeal is five Justices. The Court has been short of its full complement for quite some time and this was further shortened following the retirement of Chancellor (ag) Carl Singh and Justice of Appeal B.S. Roy, who recently proceeded on pre-retirement leave.
Newly sworn in Acting Chief Justice George will now sit on the Court of Appeal, bringing the current complement to two Justices. (Ramona Luthi)