February 25, 2018

President to request further consultations for appointment of Chancellor, CJ

…after Opposition Leader rejects nominees

President David Granger is expected to write Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo for another round of consultations before the appointment of a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice, Minister of State Joseph Harmon told sections of the media on Thursday.
“The President took the decision that he is going to write the Leader of the Opposition… and that the work of the judiciary will not be held in abeyance or will not be stymied by any interventions whatsoever,” Harmon said.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

President David Granger

The development came in the wake of the Opposition Leader’s not finding favour with the nominees proposed by the President about a month ago.
“Mr Jagdeo’s rejection is constitutional; the president’s powers are also constitutional and there is a provision in the law which provides in the event that there cannot be agreement -because the requirement is for agreement – there is a second level which now requires meaningful consultation,” Harmon told media operatives.
“So I believe that is the next step we’ll have to go to,” Harmon added.
Jagdeo has rejected the appointment of Justice Kenneth Benjamin as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards as Chief Justice following their nomination by President Granger.
In a letter dispatched to the media late Wednesday evening and addressed to the President, Jagdeo said, “I have duly considered the two nominees for whom you seek my agreement for appointment as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice, respectively, in accordance with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.”
However, he noted that his decision was made following due diligence done on the candidates. “As promised, I have done the requisite due diligence. It is with deep regret that I inform you that I am unable to offer my agreement to the appointment of Mr Justice Kenneth Andrew Charles Benjamin, as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Madam Justice Yonette Decina Cummings-Edwards, OR, as Chief Justice”.
Jagdeo also defended a report that was published by the Department of Public Information (DPI) with the headline: “Opposition Leader a no show at scheduled meeting with President Granger.” Accompanying the article is a picture with the President, along with Attorney General Basil Williams and Minister of State Joseph Harmon seated at a table staring at three empty chairs across the table.

Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards

Justice Kenneth Benjamin

The Opposition Leader said, “This odd photograph bears the caption: ‘No Show’. It is accompanied by a brief statement explaining that the Leader of the Opposition did not show up at a meeting with the President which was scheduled a month ago, to take place today (Wednesday).”
However, Jagdeo said having received no information confirming the meeting for Wednesday, which he said is a usual practice; he dispatched three letters which contain his response to issues raised at the last meeting. Minister Harmon was later contacted about the letters and stated that he remains ready and willing to meet with the President at a mutually convenient time.
President Granger had announced at his first press conference in two years, in December last year, that he has accepted a proposal from a committee that had been set up to review and interview applicants interested in the top judicial post after it advertised locally, regionally and internationally.
Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader in another missive to the President noted his approval of the appointment of members of the Integrity Commission. “I offer no objection to the four persons whom you have identified for appointment to the Integrity Commission, in accordance with Section 3 (4) of the Integrity Commission Act Cap 19:12, Laws of Guyana. “I consider the totality of our engagement on this issue to be in satisfaction of the requirements of “consultation” as contemplated by the letter and spirit of section 3 (4)…”
Under the Integrity Commission Act, the President is to appoint a chairperson and other Commissioners. Although the number of nominees has been identified, the names were never disclosed.