Charging that the government had been a serial violator of the constitution, the opposition PPP yesterday defended the concerns raised by the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) about the possible appointment of a Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice (CJ).
On Monday morning, the GBA warned in a statement against any unconstitutional appointments by the government of the Chancellor and CJ. The GBA statement came following declarations from senior government officials which were interpreted by some to mean that appointments would be made despite Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s objections to the two names presented to him by President David Granger. Under the constitution, the Opposition Leader must agree with the candidates before substantive appointments are made.
Close to midnight on Monday, Minister of State Joseph Harmon in a release from the Ministry of the Presidency criticised the GBA and called its statement reckless. Harmon assured that the government would uphold the constitution on the appointment of the chancellor and CJ.
In its statement yesterday, the PPP noted that Harmon described the GBA statement as “perplexing”, “reckless” and “rash” and sought to convey the impression that the Government and the President have a clean record of acting in compliance with the Constitution. The PPP noted that Harmon boasted that the Administration had made timely appointments to the Judiciary.
The PPP then pointed out that President Granger had refused to act on recommendations made by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint Judges to the High Court and Court of Appeal for nearly two years, in violation of the Constitution
Further, it said that Minister Simona Broomes had directed the Public Service Commission (PSC) in writing not to promote certain public officers, in violation of the Constitution, which was so declared by then Chief Justice Ian Chang.
Additionally, the PPP said that Harmon, himself, claiming to be acting on behalf of the President, had directed the PSC to halt the promotion of Police Officers, in violation of the Constitution, which Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George ruled to be unlawful
The PPP also charged that the President unlawfully and unconstitutionally revoked leases of over 50 rice farmers which were again declared by the High Court to be illegal.
The opposition party further argued that the Government unlawfully confiscated properties from single mothers, who owned them by Transport and Certificates of Title, which were again pronounced upon by the High Court as being unlawful.
It also cited the President’s unilateral appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission as another example of constitutional violation.
The PPP also rejected a contention by Harmon that the Leader of the Opposition refused to offer reasons for withholding his agreement from the President’s nominees for the positions of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice. The PPP said that Jagdeo is on public record as committing to provide those reasons if he is requested to do so.
The PPP said that Harmon’s statement is a demonstration of the intolerance of the Government to criticisms, which is part of the constitutional right of free speech.
The PPP called on all responsible civil society organisations to join the GBA and to make public their concerns about the disrespect that the Government has shown to the Constitution, the rule of law and the democratic institutions of the state.