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Bar Association tells Legal Affairs Minister to stay out of judicial appointments

The Guyana Bar Association (GBA) has told the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams to keep his mouth out of the appointment of members of the judiciary.

The association’s position came days after he stated that the search would begin shortly for a new Chief Justice because the incumbent office holder, Ian Chang, would soon be proceeding on pre-retirement leave.

“In fact, matters concerning the Chief Justice fall under the Chancellor and the Judicial Service Commission, and not the Minister. And under the very important principle of the independence of the Judiciary, any member of the Executive, including the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, must be very careful not to act in violation of, or appear to compromise that independence,” said the association in a statement.

Expressing regret that the Attorney General gave the clear impression that vacation leave for the Chief Justice is a matter which he should pronounce on in his capacity as Legal Affairs Minister, the GBA cautioned that such a move could lead to perceived politicization of the judiciary.

“Additionally, it is our view that the comments by the Attorney General can have the unintended effect of politicising not only the issue of the leave of one of country’s top judicial officers but also the office itself. Indeed, a number of senior and not so senior members of the Bar called members of the Council of the Bar Association to express their dismay to the Association,” added the association.

The GBA President, Christopher Ram has already met with the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs and told him the organisation’s concerns.

The separation of powers provides for the judiciary, legislature and the executive to function independently.

The Chancellor and the Chief Justice are appointed by the President after agreement with the Leader of the Opposition.

Chang will reach the age of retirement in February, 2016 prior to when he is expected to proceed on all accumulated vacation leave.