President David Granger signaled that the prolonged gridlock on the top judicial appointments could end if the Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo justifies his rejection of the nominees for the positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice.
Justice Kenneth Benjamin was nominated to serve as Chancellor of the Judiciary while Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards was tipped for Chief Justice but the nominees were rejected without reason by Jagdeo in February 2018.
The Guyana Constitution stipulates that those two positions be filled based on a consensus between the President and the Leader of the Opposition.
Asserting that a “transparent and legitimate” process was employed to find those nominees, President Granger contended that Jagdeo has to prove that his process of rejection possesses similar qualities.
“He has not told me what his process was in rejecting…If he can show that he has a similar process and justify the rejection of my candidate, it is something to be considered,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an event at State House Wednesday.
There has been no progress on the substantive appointments in the hierarchy of the judiciary since former Chancellor Desiree Bernard demitted office in 2005, since there was never an agreement between the Opposition Leader and President.
President Granger explained that his process of finding the nominees began with a public advertisement where interest persons were encouraged to apply. He then established a panel of “seniors” who are tasked with interviewing applicants and compile a report of recommendations which was submitted to the Head-of-State. Based on the report, the President proposed the nominees to the Opposition Leader during a meeting on January 3, 2018.
““It wasn’t something hasty, or arbitrary or whimsical. There was a process…. I didn’t pull the name out of the sky,” Mr Granger explained.
On February 7, 2018, Jagdeo dispatched a letter to the Head-of-State expressing “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”.
In the letter, which was released to the media, did not outline any reasons for the rejection.
The President has not returned to the table with new nominees and the matter has been at a stalemate since.
President of Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Justice Adrian Saunders recently urged the local leaders to find some mechanism break the deadlock on the appointments.