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Justice Kenneth Benjamin “very competent” for Chancellor of Judiciary; no need for comparison

Chief Justice of Belize, Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin.

President David Granger  on Friday again insisted on Justice Kenneth Benjamin as Guyana’s next Chancellor because he emerged as the best candidate for the job, but he declined to say why his pick is better than acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards.

“All persons applied, they were interviewed, their applications were evaluated and they made recommendations so I’m not going to compare one person with the other. The panel has already done that,” he told reporters when asked what makes Justice Benjamin better than acting Chancellor Cummings-Edwards for the job.

Justice Benjamin’s appointment has been engulfed in a gridlock because Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo has withheld his approval which is required by Guyana’s Constitution, but no reasons have been provided.

In January, 2017 a panel of three “eminent” legal personnel- Retired Justices Claudette Singh,  James Patterson and Law Professor Harold Lutchman- had by October of that year had recommended Justice Benjamin, a Guyanese who currently serves as Belize’s Chief Justice. “We had a process by which all of the persons interested in the position of Chancellor had applied and had been interviewed by an expert panel and I’m advised by that panel and I’m prepared to stick by the advice of that panel so I have not changed my view on Justice Benjamin. He is very competent, he is Guyanese-born and I think that he is working towards reducing that backlog,” Granger said.

Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards

The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) has been calling for acting Chancellor Cummings-Edwards and acting Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire to be confirmed in their positions. George-Wiltshire did not apply.

Reacting to recent concerns by the Belize Bar Association that Justice Benjamin had been responsible for a heavy backlog of cases, the President said”I don’t know if there is any judiciary in the Commonwealth Caribbean which doesn’t have a backlog of cases”.

“I don’t think that the allegations of the Bar Association are substantial enough for me to change my opinion,” he said.

Justice Benjamin is also a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda where he once served as Chief Magistrate.