UPDATE: President’s Nominees Likely to be Appointed to Act as Chancellor and CJ

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Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards

In Light of Opposition Withholding Support for Their Substantive Appointments

GUYANA — Minister of State Joseph Harmon on Thursday signalled that President David Granger’s nominees for the posts of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice will be appointed to act in those capacities, in light of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s withholding of his agreement for their substantive appointments.

The nominees are Justice Kenneth Benjamin for Chancellor of the Judiciary and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards for Chief Justice.

“There is a constitutional provision which we will look at and if, in fact, there is no agreement for them to be appointed in the substantive position, then, as I said, there is [a] constitutional provision for them to be appointed otherwise,” Harmon told a post-Cabinet press briefing.

In a release Thursday night, the Ministry of the Presidency said that the President stated that he is going to be receiving legal advice on the matter.

“The problem that has arisen now will be examined by my legal advisors and an announcement will be made, but we needed to have the substantive appointments and he (Jagdeo) has not advanced any reason why he could not confirm and we just have to accept the situation as it is now,” Granger was reported as saying.

One month after being made aware of President Granger’s nominees, Jagdeo on Wednesday wrote him, relaying his disapproval.

While responding to questions from reporters, Harmon said that constitutionally there is a provision which will now have to “kick in, which would allow for another level of consultation before appointments are made.”

Article 127 (1) of the Constitution states, “The Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.

Article 127 (2) allows for the president’s appointment of judges to serve as Chancellor and Chief Justice after meaningful consultation with the opposition leader, in the event that either office is vacant or in the case of the latter that the office holder is unable to perform his/her functions.

Harmon told reporters that given the absence of Jagdeo and his team at Wednesday’s scheduled meeting, Granger took the decision to write the Leader of the Opposition pointing out those things and the fact that the work of the judiciary will not “be held in abeyance or will not be stymied by any interventions whatsoever.”

Justice Benjamin is still sitting in Belize.

Harmon did not provide a clear answer when asked if Benjamin’s arrival here is on hold, given the new development.

“Mr Jagdeo’s rejection, as I said, is constitutional. The president’s powers are also constitutional and there is a provision in the law which provides in the event that there cannot be agreement—because the requirement is for agreement—there is a second level which now requires meaningful consultation,” Harmon said. “I believe that is the next step we’ll have to go to,” Harmon added.

Jagdeo’s office had released the letter sent to Granger after the Ministry of the Presidency posted a photo on its Facebook page of the President and Minister Harmon and Attorney General Basil Williams, stating that the Opposition Leader had been a no-show at a scheduled meeting.

The Opposition Leader’s office later released a statement saying that he had gotten no information from the government confirming a meeting and had therefore dispatched letters to Granger. It also said that around 4 pm on Wednesday, Jagdeo contacted Harmon via telephone and advised him of the letters and indicated a willingness to meet at a convenient time. Jagdeo’s office said that he was therefore surprised at the statement by the Ministry of the Presidency that he had not attended a scheduled meeting.

– STABROEK NEWS ET AL

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