As government continues to lay the blame at the feet of the opposition for the failure to confirm the two top judicial posts, Opposition Leader David Granger said yesterday that President Donald Ramotar has not made any attempt to engage the opposition to have these issues sorted out since attaining office just over a year ago.
Granger was responding to a comment made by Attorney General Anil Nandlall that efforts were made both by Ramotar and former president Bharrat Jagdeo to secure the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition, as is constitutionally required, to settle and confirm the appointments Chief Justice and Chancellor.
Granger noted that under the constitution, the president is “obligated to have meaningful consultations with the opposition”. He said the only such consultation to be made was with respect to the post of the Commissioner of Police. Granger stressed that there has been no consultation in respect of Chancellor or the Chief Justice. He noted that once such a request for consultation is made, he will attend.
When contacted yesterday Nandlall had something different to say. According to him, the issue was raised with Granger twice this year.
Nandlall, during a telephone interview with Stabroek News, said that government representatives, inclusive of himself and Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon, had a meeting with Granger and other APNU representatives, during which the issue of non-confirmation of judicial posts was raised.
That was either in July or August, he related.
According to Nandlall on that occasion Granger indicated that he would decide it with his party.
Subsequently, he said, Ramotar spoke with Granger via telephone and the issue was again raised, with the president stressing that an agreement needed to be reached. However, the situation remained unchanged.
He further said that the government had done all it could in respect of this situation.
Recounting events during Jagdeo’s tenure, Nandlall said that there were several letters to the then leader of the opposition Robert Corbin about judicial positions. He said it was since then that an agreement could not be reached.
“I am concerned about the intransigence displayed by the leader of the opposition in respect of his responsibility regarding the filling of many important constitutional vacancies, including the judicial appointments in which the constitution mandates him to play a part,” he said.
Nandlall said that Granger was not discharging that constitutional responsibility and then shifted the blame to the government. “This is simply wrong,” he stressed.
Noting that the vacancies could lead to potential problems, Nandlall said that the PPP/C is on record as emphasising the importance of filling them since former chancellor Justice Desiree Bernard demitted office.
Nandlall added that what is of significance is that Guyana stands out in the entire Commonwealth as having a constitution which requires an agreement to be reached between the head of the executive and the leader of the opposition in respect of filling positions in the judiciary.
“The only country that I am aware of in the entire world that has a similar position in their constitution is Pakistan.
Every other country requires the head of the executive to merely consult with the leader of the opposition,” he added.
He explained that Guyana’s constitution allows for the leader of the opposition to play a most meaningful role in respect of these appointments. “This power which the leader of the opposition enjoys comes with it grave responsibility….,” he said, while emphasising that the government is ready to proceed with the appointments.
The row between the opposition and government over the failure to fill the appointments has its genesis in a statement from the Alliance for Change (AFC) last week, in which it said that candidates for the two posts must be identified and confirmed so as to avoid the judiciary falling victim to the current difficulties and suspicions that have enmeshed the executive and the legislature. At present, Carl Singh is holding the position of acting Chancellor while Ian Chang is the acting Chief Justice.