I note that after the meeting between the President and the Leader of the Opposition, on the appointment of Justice Benjamin as Chancellor, Minister Harmon, is reported to have said that the President was generous to give the Leader of the Opposition a month to do his due diligence.
I was really taken aback by this choice of words as I knew the Constitution stipulated that the President must get the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition. The President has not been given the authority to make such a decision in his own deliberate judgement. One can only be generous when one has something which he is willing to share with others. If being given a month is an act of generosity, then what would one call the twelve years given to previous opposition leaders for their agreement?
Justice Carl Singh, who acted as Chancellor from April 2005 to February 2017, was nominated by both Presidents, Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar; all the then opposition leaders, including David Granger, never offered their agreement to Justice Singh’s appointment. Clearly President Jagdeo and President Ramotar were very, very magnanimous in the past. But this has more to it than persons being generous. For me there is the issue of appointing from what is here, and there is also the issue of trust and confidence building measures.
The two Justices who are currently performing the duties of Chancellor and Chief Justice should be nominated; they have performed and they have the confidence of their peers.
In our divided society, trust and confidence building are still paramount. This has been one of the hallmarks of the mantras from the diplomatic community and the international organizations, thus, the changes made to the Constitution and the elections laws and the billions invested by the last government, in ‘depressed communities programmes’ and ‘social cohesion programmes’. What was done with the appointment of the Chairman of the elections commission was a serious blow to trust and confidence.
I have seen one precipitous act of generosity by this administration and this was the Hamilton Green Pension Act. Hamilton Green served for seven years as Prime Minister – five of those years followed rigged elections and two were on an extension generously agreed to by the opposition. A person acting for twelve years could not have been an issue of competence. What was done – whatever the reason for non-consent ‒ was ungenerous to Justice Carl Singh.