Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday made it clear that he will not be making any counterproposals to President David Granger in response to his rejection of the nominees to the top two judicial posts, noting that it is up to the President to sort out the impasse.
“He is the president of Guyana he has to initiate…I have already given my position. I said I am prepared to engage further…He needs to get back to me about the mode of that engagement that is my position”, Jagdeo insisted at a press conference at his Church Street office.
Granger last Thursday said that that it is up to Jagdeo to move the process forward while pointing out that discussions cannot take place if there is no counterproposal.
“The ball is in the court of the Leader of the Opposition. I have made my proposals to him, he simply rejected them. He has not made any counterproposals so there is nothing to discuss”, the President told reporters during a brief interview last Thursday following the conclusion of the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CTATF) workshop for judges and prosecutors.
Granger in January informed Jagdeo that his choice for Chancellor of the Judiciary was Belizean Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, while acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards was his nominee for Chief Justice. The two met on the issue and Jagdeo at that forum asked for some time to deliberate on the matter. On February 7th, 2018, by way of letter, Jagdeo informed Granger of his disagreement with the nominees.
Article 127 (1) of the Constitution states that both sides must agree on the nominees before the substantive appointments 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.
Granger stated on Thursday that he had hoped that they would have been able to move forward and “make substantive appointments at this stage but I have to depend on his compliance”.
Asked if he plans to take up the president’s offer, Jagdeo said “No…I don’t understand. I made it clear…He should be saying ‘I read your letter let’s find a way to move forward’”.
After reading his entire letter to the president, Jagdeo told reporters at the press conference that he made it very clear in the correspondence that he was committed to continuous engagement. He noted that Granger then went to the media and said that he would not allow him (Jagdeo) to hold the process up
Jagdeo stated that when the president was Opposition Leader he held up the process for nearly six years. “I had one month”, he said, before reminding that the President had then said that he was seeking legal advice.
“He has not said a word to the country about what the legal advice recommended and he hasn’t gotten back to me”, he stressed.
When Granger was asked about this last Thursday he responded “I know what needs to be done. I am well advised but I have to wait on the Leader of the Opposition to respond to my proposals”.
Days after the rejection, Granger had said “Well, I have to be advised by my Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General. We cannot be without a Chancellor and Chief Justice and right now two persons are acting and I had hoped that we could have moved forward by having a substantive or a full-time appointment agreed but this has not happened and the constitution requires me to await the approval of the Leader of the Opposition. [That] hasn’t come, so I would have to depend on legal advice and make sure that the courts continue to function”.
Jagdeo said that the president’s failure to respond to his letter is “serious”.
Justice Cummings-Edwards and acting Chief Justice Roxane George were appointed last year, weeks after the retirement of then acting Chancellor Carl Singh. Chancellor Singh was the acting head of the Judiciary for about 12 years. Granger, the then Opposition Leader had refused to agree to Chancellor Singh’s substantive appointment saying that that position as well as the Chief Justice’s 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 was not catered for.
Guyana has been without a substantive CJ and Chancellor for more than a decade.