More than two months after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said no to the substantive appointments of Belizean Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin as Chancellor and acting Chancellor Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards as Chief Justice, there is no word from government or President David Granger on what is the likely solution to this impasse.
Article 127 (1) of the Constitution clearly states that both sides must agree on the nominees before the substantive appointment can be made. “The Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition”, it states.
Jagdeo on February 7, 2018 by way of letter informed government of his disagreement with Granger’s two nominees who were chosen by a panel selected by Granger.
The Opposition Leader told this newspaper recently that the president has made no contact with him regarding the matter. He had said in his letter to Granger that after undertaking the requisite due diligence he could not support the appointment of either justices. He did not provide his reasons for the rejections and it is unclear if he has done so or plans to do that in the near future.
The last word from Granger on this matter was that he would seek legal advice from Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General Basil Williams SC while stressing on the importance of having substantive appointments. More than two months have elapsed since the statement that legal advice would be sought.
At the moment Justice Cummings-Edwards is the acting Chancellor while Justice Roxane George is the acting Chief Justice. They were both appointed last year, weeks after the retirement of then acting Chancellor Carl Singh. Singh was the acting head of the Judiciary for about 12 years. Granger the then opposition leader had refused to agree to Singh’s substantive appointment saying that that position as well as the Chief Justice post must first be advertised in the interest of transparency before there is any confirmation. The then PPP/C government had argued that such a process is not catered for.
Williams when asked on Thursday said that the president is the one to be asked about this issue. “When the president is involved in anything I am slow to venture out before him so I think you can easily direct that question to him but I can assure you that we would have been addressing our minds to something as important as this”.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon when contacted last Thursday informed Stabroek News that the President has sought the legal advice but he could not say “whether in fact he has received it”. Harmon said that once the president receives that information he will then decide what action he will take.