An Independent Commission, not politicians, should be responsible for selecting Chancellor and Chief Justice

Dear Editor,

Article 127(1) of the Constitution provides for the President to make appointments to the offices of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice, with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.

Presidents and Leaders of the Opposition have been unable to agree on the selection of Chancellors of the Judiciary and Chief Justices over the last 13 years.

Two members of the Caribbean Court of Justice have recently criticized Guyana for placing pressure on the independence of senior members of the Judiciary by having them sit for several years in posts in which there is no security of tenure. Honourable Justices Sir Dennis Byron and Adrian Saunders have criticized the trend over the last 13 years whereby members of the Judiciary have not been substantively appointed, but have sat as ‘Acting’ justices for several years. This has been described by Justice Saunders as a “significant stain” on the Rule of Law (Ongoing lack of substantive Chancellor, CJ ‘significant stain’ on rule of law: Stabroek News, May 26, 2018.)

The current constitutional processes of selection have been ineffectual. A 13-year period of ‘Acting’ Chancellors and Chief Justices is wholly unacceptable in a democratic society, which endeavours to uphold the principles of the Rule of Law, Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary.

Constitutional reform in Guyana has been long overdue and is now urgent and imperative. A revised process of selection of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice is recommended. The process of selection should be independent and transparent. The Constitution should be amended to provide for selection of candidates by an Independent Selection Commission.

Yours faithfully,

Colin Bobb-Semple

Lecturer in Law,

School of Law and Criminology,

University of West London

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