Opposition rejects Chancellor, Chief Justice nominees
-approves Integrity Commission members
Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, has rejected the names of Justices Kenneth Benjamin and Yonette Cummings-Edwards as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice respectively.
The disclosures were made yesterday after a reportedly scheduled meeting on the appointments between President David Granger and his team and Jagdeo did not happen.
In fact, the Ministry of the Presidency appeared to be upset, posting a photo on Facebook saying that Jagdeo was a no-show at the State House meeting.
According to the Ministry of the Presidency, after requesting a month for consideration of several matters, the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, failed to show up at a follow-up meeting convened. Waiting on him were President David Granger; Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; and Attorney General, Basil Williams.
The meeting was convened to discuss the appointments of the Chancellor and Chief Justice, the Integrity Commission and the Teaching Service Commission, the Ministry said.
However, the Office of the Opposition disputed that.
“Our attention was drawn to a bewildering photograph in circulation of President David Granger sandwiched between Attorney-General, Mr. Basil Williams and Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon seated at a table staring pensively at three empty chairs across the table.
This odd photograph bears the caption: ‘No Show’. It is accompanied by a brief statement explaining that the Leader of the Opposition did not show up at a meeting with the President which was scheduled a month ago, to take place today.”
The Office of the Opposition Leader made it clear that having received no information confirming the meeting for yesterday, as is the usual practice, the “Leader of the Opposition dispatched three letters which contain his response to issues raised at the last meeting.”
Jagdeo’s office claimed that additionally, at or about 16:00 hours yesterday afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition contacted Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon via telephone and informed him of the three letters to the President which were sent.
“The Leader of the Opposition also indicated to Mr. Harmon that he remains ready and willing to meet with the President at a mutually convenient time. In light of the foregoing, it is quite surprising that the government would engage in the publicity stunt which is on display. To clarify this matter, we enclose copies of the three letters. They are self-explanatory. The Leader of the Opposition will deal more elaborately with this issue at a press conference to be held tomorrow (today).
In the letter dated yesterday to President Granger, on the appointments of the Chancellor and Chief Justice, Jagdeo referred to the previous consultative meeting held on January 3, 2018.
“…I have duly considered the two (2) nominees for whom you seek my agreement for appointment as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice, respectively, in accordance with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. As promised, I have done the requisite due diligence. It is with deep regret that I inform you that I am unable to offer my agreement to the appointment of Mr. Justice Kenneth Andrew Charles Benjamin, as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Madam Justice Yonette Decina Cummings-Edwards O.R., as Chief Justice.”
Jagdeo noted that he remains cognizant of the fundamental importance of securing substantive appointments to these two high constitutional offices.
“As a result, I am committed to continuous engagement with your Excellency until there is due compliance with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution.”
In another letter also dated yesterday on the appointment of members of the Teaching Service Commission in accordance with Article 207 of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Jagdeo wanted some questions answered.
“Pursuant to our meeting on January 3, 2018, and based upon our discussions thereof, I expected Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon M.P., to have informed me whether your Excellency would be continuing the established convention, whereby the Leader of the Opposition would be invited to submit a nominee to the President, for the President to appoint in accordance with Article 207 (2) (d) of the Constitution.”
Unfortunately, Jagdeo said in the letter, he has received no such information from Minister Harmon.
“However, I remain ready and willing to submit a nominee for your kind consideration, should such a request be made. In the event that your Excellency is departing from the established convention to which I have referred, I consider the totality of our engagement on this issue to be in satisfaction of the requirements of “meaningful consultation” as contemplated by the letter and spirit of Article 232 of the Constitution.”
In the third released letter on the appointment of members of the Integrity Commission, the Opposition Leader disclosed that he was offering no objection to the four persons who were identified by the President for appointment.
“I consider the totality of our engagement on this issue to be in satisfaction of the requirements of “consultation” as contemplated by the letter and spirit of section 3 (4) of the Integrity Commission Act Cap. 19:12, Laws of Guyana.”
The Ministry of the President in a separate statement quoted Attorney General Williams who said that it is unfortunate that Jagdeo failed to show up at the meeting, despite the President’s decision to grant his request for a month to consider the issues.
He noted that the Leader of the Opposition has put the nation’s business at a standstill.
Minister Williams said that it was minutes before the commencement of the meeting that the Leader of the Opposition sent three letters, which communicated his standing on the three matters.
“However, at no time did those letters indicate that the Leader of the Opposition would not be attending the meeting.
“In relation to the appointment of the Teaching Service Commission, he is asking for further time to identify a nominee but he has agreed for the President to go ahead with the appointment with the members of the Integrity Commission.
“The question of giving him further time for the TSC will be up to the President and in relation to the appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice, we will have to continue to look at that matter,” the Attorney General said.
The Minister said that the provision of a name by the Opposition Leader will signal the end of the necessary consultations on the TSC.
“The President will then consider the Opposition’s nominee, paving the way for the appointment of this Commission.”
The Government and the Opposition have been at odds over the appointments of persons to a number of key positions.