President David Granger said yesterday that recommendations have been made by a panel for the posts of substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice and those appointments could be made by early next month.
The panel comprising retired justices Claudette Singh and James Patterson along with former University of Guyana Vice Chancellor Harold Lutchman was set up to review the applications received and recommend to Granger a candidate for each of the two posts. Government, weeks before acting Chancellor, Justice Carl Singh retired had invited persons to apply for the two positions.
Asked for an update on the matter, Granger told reporters at State House that the panel had interviewed some applicants and the recommendations have been made. Moments earlier Granger had sworn in four High Court judges and one appellate court judge.
It is unclear how many persons applied for the two posts and whether the bulk are locally based. Stabroek News has since confirmed that at least two overseas-based Guyanese judicial officers had applied for the post of Chancellor. Presently Justice Roxane George SC is acting as Chief Justice while Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards is the acting Chancellor
The President spoke of a successful applicant for one of the positions which he did not identify. He said that that person is now being contacted to determine whether he would accept the nomination.
Granger declined to name the person saying that he could not do so without the approval of the candidate. “Of course I would like to have the opportunity to consult with the Leader of the Opposition”, he said.
Under Article 127(1) of the Constitution, the President needs to obtain the agreement of the Opposition Leader before appointing both office holders following consultations.
Asked how soon the public could see those appointments being made, he said that he expects within a few weeks, by early August.
This newspaper has been reliably informed that a distinguished Guyanese jurist based in the Carib-bean is the top pick for the post of Chancellor.
Sources informed Stabroek News several weeks ago that the jurist, who holds a high-ranking judicial post in a Caricom member state would most likely be chosen as Granger’s nominee. The jurist is Guyanese by birth and has a career spanning approximately 40 years. For confirmation in the position, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo would have to agree.
This newspaper was also told that another Caribbean jurist who is also Guyanese by birth was initially being considered. This jurist is an appellate judge, has held a number of other positions during an approximately 30-year career and has worked in at least two Caricom member states.
According to one source, Justice Cummings-Edwards still has about 13 years remaining before reaching the 65, the retirement age for the Chancellor and if appointed, she may be the longest serving substantive Chancellor in Guyana’s history.
With regards to the Chief Justice position, this newspaper was informed that a well-known High Court judge is among the applicants.
About a month ago, Jagdeo, when approached had said that while he has not received any correspondence from Granger, there must be collaboration, understanding and partnership in resolving this issue.
The appointments of Justices Cummings-Edwards and George to act in the respective posts came after Jagdeo agreed to forego formalities since Granger was preparing to leave the country on official business and the judiciary was without a head, as Justice Singh had retired days earlier.
A release from Jagdeo’s office issued on March 1, stated that during a meeting with the President, the Leader of the Opposition indicated that he would not insist on the formalities of a letter accompanied by the names of the President’s nominees along with curriculum vitae, “as is the practice which has evolved… in keeping with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.” Jagdeo indicated that his reason for dispensing with formality was because filling the vacancy was of national importance and the President’s departure for overseas was imminent. Granger left for The Baha-mas the following day.
The President had proposed Justice Cummings-Edwards who was then performing the functions of Chief Justice, to act in the position of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Justice George to act in the office of Chief Justice. Jagdeo informed the President that he required one week to offer his views on those proposals. This did not find favour with the President and he went ahead with the acting appointments.