The Ministry of the Presidency is being mischievous in its release issued on July 22, 2017, titled, ‘President’s comments complement and do not contradict Acting CJ’s ruling.’
That release states: “While the President believes that the Constitution was crafted the way it was to give preference to the appointment of ‘a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge’, he has never disagreed with acting Chief Justice’s ruling in that the Constitution clearly states that ‘any other fit and proper person’ can be appointed. President Granger’s comments complement and do not contradict that ruling.”
Firstly, the release did not include everything the President is alleged to have said in response to the acting CJ’s ruling. Specifically, the statement which the President allegedly made on or about July 13, 2017, which the ministry omitted is: “The Chief Justice gave an interpretation based on her perception of the law and I will continue to act in accordance with my perception of the Constitution; that is to say I will not appoint somebody who I do not consider fit and proper.”
The public has taken notice of this statement. Let us not try to hide it. The President knows well that it is the job of the Chief Justice to give “an interpretation based on her perception of the law” on an issue before the court; and it is his job to abide by what the Chief Justice says, until it is overruled or the law changes.
But the President and his Attorney General give the appearance they are of the opinion that their “perception” is superior to that of the court itself. Frankly, whether we like it or not and as a matter of law, a republic is not interested in a president’s perception of a law when a court in the republic makes a legal decision or offers a declaratory judgment on that law.
All this small talk of believing in the separation of powers is just that, idle talk. Indeed, for the President to say that “I will continue to act in accordance with my perception of the Constitution” is to leave him open to the suggestion that he objects to what the court declared.
The issue here is not about “fit and proper”; it is about the “perception” of the President (executive) overriding or subtly dismissing the “perception” of the court (judiciary).
And, incidentally, no one is disputing that a Gecom chairman ought to have integrity and demonstrate independence and be impartial. That was never in dispute, so why is the President so obsessed with these words or qualities, unless he is trying to divert the public’s attention from the real issue?
It is not going to happen. The people are aware that the President and his Attorney General are attempting to play games with words, and they are losing. The President should cease playing games with words and instruct his staff that in the future, all material facts should be included in their press releases.