President still to call meeting with Jagdeo on judicial appointments

Almost three weeks have passed since President David Granger said he would convene a meeting with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to discuss pressing matters, including the highly talked about rejection of the nominees to the top two judicial posts.

Stabroek News was able to confirm yesterday that there has been no communication, whether verbally or in writing, to Jagdeo about a meeting in the near future.

“I expect that we’ll be meeting the Leader of the Opposition, very soon to deal with a range of appointments. That [the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Chairman] is one of them”, Granger told reporters on May 16 at State House.

Granger since then has not been accessible to the media. In the absence of press conferences – the last was held in December 2017- reporters depend on formal engagements such as accreditations at State House to seek answers to questions on current issues. The `Public Interest’ programme which was the most regular, extended engagement with the media was last held in April last year.

This newspaper was unable to ascertain yesterday when Granger is likely to meet with Jagdeo.

Granger on May 16 was first questioned on the absence of a PCA Chairman for more than a year following the removal of Justice (rtd) Cecil Kennard owing to his advanced age. He confirmed that he has a nomination for PCA Chairman but did not reveal who. This newspaper was previously told that retired Justices BS Roy, William Ramlal and Claudette La Bennett were recommended for the post.

Granger informed that during the upcoming meeting with Jagdeo the reconstitution of the Public Service Commission and the Police Service Commission would also be on the agenda for discussion. The life of these two commissions came to an end since last year and have raised concerns as to why government is allowing so much time to elapse without them being reconstituted. The Police Service Commission is of particular importance as its constitution is required for the promotion of senior ranks in the police force as well as disciplinary action. Stabroek News recently confirmed that this issue will be on the order paper for the sitting of the National Assembly scheduled for later this month. Those nominated for the commission are retired assistant commissioners of police Paul Slowe, Clinton Conway, Vesta Adams and Claire Jarvis.

When asked how soon he plans to have this meeting, the President had responded “I cannot (say) I have to wait on Parliament for the nominations”. While noting that nominations for the Police Service Commission are already with Parliament, he said none has been made for the Public Service Commission. “As soon as the parliament completes its work I will ask the Leader of the Opposition to meet”, he said.

The judicial nominees issue is probably the most important thing on Granger’s list and observers have questioned why he is dragging his feet in finding a solution to the impasse. The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) and the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) at recent elections called for the confirmation of acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards and acting Chief Justice Roxane George SC who were appointed to those positions more than a year ago in keeping with an arrangement made by Granger and Jagdeo. In the case of the GBA a motion was passed to support the confirmation of the duo.

Granger in January informed Jagdeo that his choice for Chancellor of the Judiciary was Belizean Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin, while 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.

“You know where we stood. I went through every possible legitimate means of getting the best advice. I have offered him my advice and he has rejected it and he has not come up with an alternate name and when we meet I will raise the matter with him again”, he said on May 16.

Asked to clarify if he was advised to ask Jagdeo for counterproposals, he responded “I did not so advise him but he knows who my nominees are. The public knows who my nominees are and I would like ensure that the…top judicial appointments, the Chancellor and Chief Justice are confirmed in the position”.

Jagdeo has already made it clear that he will not be making any counter proposals.

“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”, he had said.

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