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Transparency body weighs in on acting appointments in judiciary

Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang and Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh

Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI) is questioning the independence of top officials of the judiciary who have been acting for several years now.

TIGI Director Dr. Arif Bulkan said it most disturbingly a “significant deficiency” that since 2005 Guyana’s Chancellor and Chief Justice have been acting.

“By no stretch of the imagination can we have or can we expect complete independence from people who are officers who are not confirmed in their positions,” he told TIGI’s 2nd annual fund raising dinner held last Friday.

At the same time, Bulkan made it clear that he was not questioning the integrity and competence of the office holders. “I simply say that whoever the individuals are if your position is not confirmed then that in itself strikingly undermines your ability to be independent,” said Bulkan, a lecturer in constitutional law at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Making substantive appointments to the posts of Chancellor and Chief Justice have been caught up in political decision-making by President Donald Ramotar and Opposition Leader David Granger.

As late as June 2013, Granger withheld his support for Justice Carl Singh to be confirmed as Chancellor and Ian Chang as Chief Justice.

The Opposition Leader has instead recommended that the positions be advertised locally and overseas and their appointments made by the Judicial Services Commission.

But government has argued that the time-tested system of consultations between the nation’s two top politicians for such appointments has served Guyana well.