Nominee for Chancellor doesn’t have to be here for President to consult me – Jagdeo

The arrival of the nominee for the post of Chancellor in the country is not a requirement to activate the long awaited consultation process, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday while noting that he is patiently awaiting word from President David Granger on a meeting.

“I don’t know his rationale for saying that because …the person’s presence in the country is not a requirement to trigger the consultative process so frankly speaking I don’t know what he is thinking”, Jagdeo told Sunday Stabroek.

Jagdeo was asked to comment on the president’s statement on Friday at a press conference that he is awaiting the nominee’s arrival before scheduling a meeting. The nominee who is a Caribbean jurist of Guyanese descent has already accepted the nomination. Government is now looking at the termination of that person’s employment where he currently resides.  This would also appear to be premature as the President would first have to obtain the agreement of the Opposition Leader on the selection. The nominee’s identity has not been made public.

On Friday during his second press conference since he took office in May, 2015, Granger had said “I am working to have this matter resolved as early as possible. Once the person is in the country, I am prepared to meet with the Leader of the Opposition as required by the Constitution”. He was responding to questions on the issue at the Ministry of the Presidency.

Jagdeo when contacted yesterday about this specific statement said that it is a very difficult question to answer because he cannot explain what goes on in the president’s head. Jagdeo said that after reading the article carried in yesterday’s edition of this newspaper, his position has not changed and he “will await his (the president’s) nominee”. Two weeks ago Jagdeo had made it clear that it is the president who has to make the first move to resolve the decade-long failure to appoint a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice and warned that he will not allow himself to be coerced into accepting nominees just to fix the situation.

“Now we have two persons who are acting in the position(s). As you would recognize, this is not a new situation. It’s not desirable but it’s how it has been for a long time in our history… just to have a substantive nominee. I am not going to promise now that any names that the president submits to me, that I will automatically give my approval for those names,” Jagdeo had said.

Yesterday, Jagdeo insisted there is no requirement which states that the nominee has be in the country in person before a meeting between himself and the president, in accordance with the constitution, can take place.

“I don’t know if the president wants to meet the person before he submits the name. That would be another issue but I don’t want to speculate”, he stressed before reiterating that the person’s presence here is not a necessity.

Article 127 (1) of the Constitution stipulates 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 acting Chancellor is Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and the acting Chief Justice is Justice Roxane George, SC. Both were appointed in March this year as part of a temporary arrangement between Granger and Jagdeo. Their predecessors, Justices Carl Singh and Ian Chang SC both retired without being substantively appointed Chancellor and Chief Justice, respectively.

While the identity of the president’s nominee has not been made public this newspaper was previously told that the nominee for the Chancellor’s post is a jurist who holds a high-ranking judicial post in a Caricom member state. The jurist has a career spanning approximately 40 years. Based on what this newspaper was told, he is 61 years old. The mandatory retirement age from judicial office is 65.

There has also been no revelation about the president’s nominee for the CJ position. This newspaper was previously told that a well-known High Court judge was among the applicants reviewed by a panel comprised of retired justices Claudette Singh and James Patterson along with former University of Guyana Vice-Chancellor Harold Lutchman. After reviewing the applicants, the panel’s task was to recommend the most suitable candidates to Granger.

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