The response by Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo to President David Granger’s nominees for the post of Chancellor and Chief Justice of the Judiciary is noted. In the Leader of the Opposition’s communication to the President he expressly referred to the requirement under Article 127 (1) of the Guyana Constitution, which states that such appointments can only be done with the office holder’s agreement.
Article 127(1) expressly states, “The Chancellor and Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.” In effect what this article says is that even in the process of arriving at the appointments there must be agreement.
Reference is being made to my letter, ‘To change the process is to tamper with the appointments’ (SN, January 14, 2018) in which it was stated, “If there is any failure in having agreement on the appointment and confirmation of a Chancellor and Chief Justice both the President and Leader of the Opposition must be held responsible.”
While the Leader of the Opposition has stuck to the constitutional requirement and demands that it be respected, what is absent from this engagement is the apparent will by both sides to fill the vacant positions with persons that will be accepted through a credible bipartisan process.
In this atmosphere what is absent in the Leader of the Opposition’s position is the identification of persons who can be considered during the engagement between the parties. To reject the nominees without putting forward alternatives falls short of expectation and is not befitting the person who holds the political constitutional office of premier leadership. The Leader of the Opposition is called upon to put before the President the names of persons he is of the opinion should be considered for the filling of the vacancies in order to advance the bi-partisanship spirit and intent of the extant article.
While the President has the responsibility of inviting the Leader of the Opposition to discuss, among other things, the filling of constitutional offices, it is expected that the latter will not only say ‘no, I don’t agree with you’ but also fulfil the obligation of proposing alternatives in helping the process to arrive at an agreement. The Constitution calls for “agreement” and agreement does not mean my way and so be it. It requires engagement that involves constructive counter-proposals coming from both sides and the merit and demerits being examined. To just say no is insufficient. Both office holders are called upon to continue this dialogue with a high degree of alacrity.
Where the Constitution mandates involvement and agreement office holders must use the instrument to work for a cohesive society. We have to get it right and must get it right. Guyana’s judiciary should no longer be undermined through political gridlock. This is an important branch of government and most importantly the only branch where the masses, irrespective of class, race, creed or other diversity feel that their voice can be heard and justice can be dispensed.
The non-appointment of a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice is undermining the confidence in the judiciary and the morale within the entire system, which carries dire consequences for the dispensing of justice and the upholding of the rule of law.