Re-elected women lawyers’ president decries non-confirmation of Chancellor, CJ

Attorney-at-law Gaitree Ramona Rookhum was last Friday reelected as President of the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) and used the occasion to highlight the non-confirmation of acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards and acting Chief Justice (CJ) Roxane George-Wiltshire SC.

A statement from the Association yesterday stated that in her report for the year 2017 to 2018, Rookhum noted with pleasure the promotion of women in the profession to high office throughout the year but “lamented the non-confirmation of the acting Chief Justice and Chancellor to date.”

At its elections on Thursday, the Guyana Bar Association passed a motion to support the substantive appointment of the two judges, who have been acting in the posts since last year.

President David Granger had nominated Belizean Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin for the post of Chancellor, while Cummings-Edwards was nominated for the position of substantive Chief Justice. In keeping with the Constitution, Granger consulted with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on the matter. Jagdeo asked for one month to consider the nominees and at the end of that period said that he disagreed with the president’s choices.

At the moment, there is no indication as to what is the solution to the impasse, as the two have traded blame over who must take responsibility for the stalled process. The president had suggested that Jagdeo’s failure to provide counterproposals in light of his disagreement is stalling the process. Jagdeo, in response, said that he would not be making any counterproposals and that he has made his position clear in his correspondence to the president. Granger recently said that he plans to have a meeting with Jagdeo “very soon” to discuss the appointments and other pressing issues.

Outgoing Caribbean Court of Justice President Sir Dennis Bryon and President-Designate Justice Adrian Saunders have expressed disappointment at Guyana’s failure to make substantive appointments to these two positions for over a decade.

Bryon had contended that the situation should be remedied as soon as possible, while adding that the courts could be approached if needs be.

The GBA previously called for a confirmation of the two women.

The Transparency Institute of Guyana Incorporated (TIGI) has since called for the two leaders to show maturity and to utilise compromise to bring an end to the current impasse.

In its release, GAWL said that during the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the majority of the executive elected in 2017 was re-elected to serve for the 2018-2019 term. Aside from Rookhum, also reelected were Vice President Shellon Boyce, Secretary Chandrawattie Persaud, Treasurer Alanna Lall, Committee Members Jaya Singh Backreedy, Denise Hodge and Anita Mohan Hamilton. The new members are Coleen Sparman-Stephens as the Assistant Secretary Treasurer and Keshia Chase, a Committee Member.

The GAWL statement said that the President in her report for the year 2017 to 2018 highlighted the work of the Association for the past year, which included outreaches undertaken, partnerships created, consultative meetings attended and pro bono services offered to the wider public. She also thanked members for their donations towards hurricane relief for the Region, back to school supplies and Christmas presents to the children at the Sophia Care Centre and toiletries hampers to the women at the New Amsterdam Prison and the girls at the Sophia Juvenile Holding Centre, among others.

One notable achievement of the term, the media release said was the institution of the public education outreach programme via a monthly television appearance on the NCN Morning Show ‘Guyana Today,’ which is expected to continue. 

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