The Guyana Bar Association on Monday issued a call for the President and the Opposition Leader to work to break the impasse over the appointment of a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice.
In a statement, the GBA said the two leaders need to keep with the spirit and intent of the Constitution go get collaboration on the selection.
The appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice is governed by Article 127 of the Constitution of Guyana.
The Article stats that the Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition
The Article further states that if the office of Chancellor or Chief Justice is vacant or if the person holding the office of Chancellor is performing the functions of the office of President or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, or if the person holding the office of Chief Justice is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, then, until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of such office or until the person holding such office has resumed those functions, as the case may be, those 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.”
President David Granger recently named Guyanese born Belize Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin as his choice for the position of Chancellor and Acting Chancellor, Justice Yonette Cummings as his choice for the position of Chief Justice.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo did not agree with the two choices and therefore did not offer any support for their appointments. He gave no reason for not offering support.
The Bar Association said Article 127(1) is clear in its meaning and effect, that the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition must be obtained for a substantive appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice.
Article 127(2) is invoked when the President and Opposition Leader cannot reach agreement under Article 127(1). An acting appointment is made by the President after “meaningful consultation” with the Leader of the Opposition.
“This has been done and therefore Article 127(2) has been fulfilled and exhausted. It is only if any of the provisos in the said Article 127(2) occur can it be invoked once again, failing which, the acting appointments continue until a substantive appointment can be made under Article 127(1)”.
The Bar Association warns that any action outside of the said Article 127 would be unconstitutional, void, of no legal effect and would have embarrassing consequences.
President David Granger has said he intends to consult with his legal team on the way forward. The Opposition Leader has signaled his interest in meeting with the President on the issue.
Sources close to the government have said that the President intends to stick to his two choices
The Bar Association said the current climate surrounding the offices of the Chancellor and Chief Justice “is repugnant and shakes the public confidence in the legal system. It further unfairly undermines the dignity of the offices and office holders”.
Guyana has not had a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary in over 15 years.