Caribbean trained attorneys are taking over the judiciary in the region

Dear Editor,

While the Guyana government is processing applications for the appointment of a Chancellor and Chief Justice, the Caribbean Court of Justice has commented on impartiality and the importance of judicial appointments, and stressed that there must be independence of the judiciary.

The comments came a day before the regional court announced the appointment of a Belizean to replace retiring Trinidadian Justice Rolston Nelson on the court. The new appointee is Denys Barrow, a West Indian trained attorney who will assume office on June 1.

It seems as if the Caribbean trained attorney is taking over the judiciary in the region. Three other CCJ judges were also trained in the Caribbean: Adrian Saunders of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Maureen Ragnauth-Lee of Port of Spain and Jamaican Winston Anderson. Anderson however was further trained in London where he was called to Lincoln’s Inn. In addition he gained his PhD in Philosophy. And speaking of Caribbean trained lawyers, the heads of the judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana as well as Belize-Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin were also graduates of the Council of Legal Education in the region.

Justice Nelson is the fourth CCJ judge to go into retirement. The others were the first President Michael La Bastide, a Trinidadian, and two Guyanese, Duke Pollard and Desiree Bernard. The present composition of the court is Sir Denis Byron of St Kitts/Nevis (President), Nelson (who is going into retirement on May 31), Saunders, Jacob Wit of the Netherlands, David Hayton of the UK, Anderson of Jamaica, and Ragnauth of Trinidad and Tobago. It is interesting to see who will be named to head the judiciary in Guyana and whether the President’s choice will get the nod from the Opposition Leader; if not he or she has to act until there is an agreement or the Constitution is amended to remove “agreement” and replace it with “in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition” as was the case before 2002. There must also be agreement for the confirmation of the Chief Justice as well. However Appellate Court and first instant judges are appointed by the Judicial Services Commission. Appellate Court Judge B S Roy is scheduled to go into retirement next month.

Yours faithfully,

Oscar Ramjeet

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