Formula for appointing Chancellor, CJ ‘makes no sense’; constitutional reform could fix deadlock – Nandlall

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By Kurt Campbell

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On Tuesday, the President of the Guyana Bar Association Pauline Chase called on the relevant authorities to officially appoint the Chancellor and Chief Justice who have been acting in the positions for several years.

She described the current acting positions as an “unworkable and failed formula” that affects the standing in the rule of law across the world and Guyana as a democratic society.

“It is, therefore, inimical to the rule of law that there are acting appointments of our highest judicial officers,” the lawyer contended.

But in consonance to what Chase believes is an unworkable and failed formula, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, has posited that the formula for appointment “makes no sense.”

“It makes no sense putting into law and worse yet putting into a constitution a mechanism that is going to cause deadlock,” Nandlall said during his Tuesday night ‘issues in the news’ commentary aired on his Facebook page.

Guyana remains without a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice because of a lack of consultation and consensus between the President and the Leader of the Opposition.

This has been the case during the last three presidencies in Guyana after a constitutional amendment was made to allow the two top judicial office holders to be appointed substantively by the President after obtaining the agreement of the Opposition Leader.

Hours after Chase added her voice to a long line of public requests for the appointments to be made, the AG responded and said the formula has failed and should form part of changes to be made when Guyana undergoes the long-promised constitutional reform in the near future.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Lloyd Robinson, Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Chief Justice Roxane George

“All I am saying…I’m stating the facts. The formula has not worked. We are embarking upon a constitutional reform exercise soon and I hope that we can learn from our current experience and it should teach us a lesson.”

Since the amendment was made to the constitution in 2001, no Chancellor or Chief Justice has been confirmed in the position.

“There are many people out there who operate in a bubble and they are gripped by certain idealisms that do not translate into reality.

“That recommendation for there to be agreement, I have no doubt, was born out of the best of intentions, but it simply has not worked… I don’t think we need more lessons.

“We have 22 years of experience. So, when we start the constitutional reform process, I hope we will be guided by these real examples and not make fanciful, idealistic and unreal recommendations.”

Currently, Justice Yonette Cummings Edwards is performing the duties of Chancellor and Justice Roxane George is performing the duties of the Chief Justice.

They were both appointed by former President David Granger in 2017. Failure by the former Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon to recognise President Irfaan Ali as legitimately elected, has prevented any form of consultation between the two.

But even during the Granger presidency, no consultations occurred between him and the then Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

Former Chancellor Carl Singh and Chief Justice Ian Chang both acted in the position for years amid failed attempts by former Presidents Donald Ramotar and Granger to reach a consensus on confirming them.

Guyana’s last substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary was Justice Desiree Bernard. She served until 2005 and was in position before the constitution was amended.

The procedures for the appointment of Chancellor and Chief Justice are outlined in Articles 127 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of Guyana.

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

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