PPP raises fresh concerns about the President undermining the Constitution; calls on Chancellor & Chief Justice to be loyal
By Stacy Carmichael-James
The Opposition People’s Progressive Party is once again raising concerns regarding the President eroding the Constitutional provisions citing the case of him withholding the list of judges presented by the Judicial Service Commission and the criteria for the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission being extended beyond what is stated in the constitution.
Speaking at a press conference today hosted at the Office of the Opposition Leader, PPP’s Chief Whip Gail Teixeira expressed deep concern that President David Granger, in a comment to the media on Tuesday said the JSC’s list of judges was withheld and is now with the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary for recommendations, before it is sent back to him to make the appointments.
According to the Chief Whip, the Constitution stipulates that any concerns with the list should be sent to the JSC, in writing, since the President’s role is merely to appoint the judges. After these concerns are received by the JSC, she pointed out, then it is up to the Constitutional body to decide whether those concerns would be considered or not, either way, Teixeira is contending that the President “must” make the appointment.
She attributed the “extreme shortage” of judges to the President, “and this crisis has taken place because of the President.” Teixeira told media operatives that the Head of State is entering a domain that is out of his remit, noting that the matter should not be “glossed” over.
“There are four names that have been hanging since last year, which the President says he ‘withheld’ his approval, that’s his own words, that he ‘withheld’ approval; this is semantical games of whether he didn’t approve or withheld it’s the same thing …is that he breached the Constitution, the Constitution gives him no such power,” Teixeira said.
She alluded to the fact that the consultations which are to be held with the Opposition Leader as it relates to the appointment of the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice (ag) were “rushed and breached” on the grounds of urgency, yet, Teixeira said some three weeks were passed before the actual swearing-in, hence she questioned where was the urgency.
The PPP believes that the President’s comments following the swearing-in “are indicative of a move on the Judiciary that is extraordinarily dangerous, we believe the slide to authoritarianism and erosion of democracy are facilitated in many countries where the independence of the Judiciary is undermined and compromised. At this stage the Judiciary are the gatekeepers of our democratic foundation and Constitution,” said the PPP Chief Whip.
A special call was made to the newly appointed Chancellor and Chief Justice (ag) to uphold the Constitution by being dynamic and loyal since in the PPP’s opinion the Judiciary is currently being undermined. In this regard the case of the Attorney General, Basil Williams threatening a sitting judge was raised and according to the Chief Whip, Williams should not only apologize to Justice Holder (whom the alleged threat was directed to) but should be charged for contempt.
In addition, Teixeira said President Granger is placing undue restriction and duress on the Opposition as it relates to the criteria requested for the GECOM Chair, which she said goes beyond what the Constitution stipulates.
Providing an update on the resubmission of a list of potential Chairpersons for the Elections body, the Chief Whip said the PPP is still in the process of consulting with Civil Society Groups and some have asked for more time to present names. Thus far the PPP is in receipt of approximately 12 to 15 submissions by these groups.