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Appointment of Chancellor, Chief Justice in constitutional limbo

(Left) Acting Chief Justice Carl Singh and Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh.

The Guyana government on Wednesday deemed as unconstitutional” Opposition Leader David Granger’s suggestion that the posts of Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary be advertised.

“The President appoints! Not the President and the Leader of the Opposition appoint. There is no defined process that involves the Leader of the Opposition other than agreeing with or not agreeing with the President’s nominee,” Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon told a news conference.

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan said that while nothing appeared wrong with advertising the positions it would be unconstitutional for the Chancellor and the Chief Justice to lose income if they reverted to their previous positions.

Ramjattan, a practicing lawyer, argued that having acted for at least eight years there Chief Justice Ian Chang and Chancellor Carl Singh legitimately expected to be confirmed and so they should be appointed.

“You’d have that problem where these fellows have acted so long expecting legitimately that they will be appointed now also having their standards now released if they were not to be the holders of the position,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) in his personal capacity.

The AFC leader further contended that advertising the positions would lead to a number of other unsettled matters such as the composition of the interviewing panel, payment of travel and subsistence for shortlisted candidates to be interviewed and the salaries the appointees would be paid.

“There would be tremendous difficulties and challenges for those candidates unless they ask for special salary and all of that,” he said.

The Head of the Presidential Secretariat interpreted the Opposition Leader’s stance as one in which he believed he had an input in arriving at the names and possibly making a joint appointment of the two top office-holders of the judiciary.

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

Both Granger and Ramjattan rejected the Guyana government’s stance that the Opposition Leader must merely agree to names proposed by the President. “One does not have more powerful influence in the matter. They are more equal in my books,” said Ramjattan.

Granger on Wednesday told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that he merely tabled a proposal for a “transparent” means of breaking the deadlock that dates back to the Bharrat Jagdeo presidency in 2005.

“I was looking at a process to break the deadlock so that is what inspired me…I would like to resolve this and this is a mechanism for resolution of the deadlock,” he said.