President is paying careful attention to his constitutional duty in the appointment of judges

Dear Editor,

The PPP/C after 23 years has finally admitted the parlous state in which it had left the judiciary on demitting government. The judiciary was never a high priority for the PPP/C government, except for the seeking to control it. The judiciary was not independent because it had no financial independence until the APNU+AFC government came to office and passed legislation to effect same.

In particular the PPP/C government inflicted a mortal blow on the independence of the judiciary when it passed legislation to remove the powers hitherto inhering in the office of Chief Justice and reposing them in the office of Chancellor.  This resulted wittingly or unwittingly in the PPP/C seeking to place their nominee in the office of the Chancellor at every meeting of the President and Leader of the Opposition to agree on the appointment of a Chief Justice and Chancellor, there being no power in the office of the Chief Justice.

The alleged shortage of judges was not occasioned under the APNU+AFC government which inherited excessive delays in both civil and criminal jurisdictions and a crippling backlog of cases in all courts. The question therefore is why didn’t the PPP/C government make those appointments while in office? Why now do they appear to have the acuity of a Rip Van Winkle recently awakened from his slumber?

The PPP/C is clearly shedding crocodile tears!

The courts are functioning now as they were under the PPP/C a year and a half ago, when the APNU+AFC took up the helm of government.

The APNU+AFC government came to office on a promise to the electorate to restore the rule of law in Guyana including transparency in judicial appointments. President David Granger while Leader of the Opposition had called for vacancies in judicial offices to be advertised so that our judiciary would attract the best possible candidates.

Mr Clement Rohee is suggesting that the recommendations of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to the President for the appointment of certain judges after the new government came to office, should be accepted and swiftly acted upon by him. Suffice it to say that the constitution does not impose a timeline on the President to treat with any such recommendation by the JSC, and for good reason. The President must have a higher duty to ensure that the judges he appoints are fit and proper, and were selected and recommended after a transparent process.

In the case of the said recommendations, they were not triggered by any public advertisement of vacancies in the office of judges and inviting applications for appointments thereto. Under the APNU+AFC government the days of handpicking and secret overtures to fill vacancies in the office of judges are over.

The President would be remiss in his duty to the Guyanese people if he were to robotically appoint judges recommended by the JSC without first ascertaining the qualifications, suitability, experience, expertise, integrity and absence of nepotism, among other considerations.

In the case of Justices of Appeal similar considerations apply, but in addition, the work ethic, the number of judgements written and whether within the statutory time limit would also be taken into account.

The Guyanese people are assured that the President is not in breach of his constitutional duties and is paying careful attention to his remit.

Yours faithfully,

Basil Williams

Attorney General and Minister of

Legal Affairs

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