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Granger gives into Jagdeo’s request for time to conduct background checks on nominees for Chancellor, Chief Justice

Chief Justice of Belize, Guyanese Kenneth Benjamin. He is also a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda where he once served as Chief Magistrate.

President David Granger on Wednesday gave into a request by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for time to probe the background of the Guyanese leader’s nominees for the positions of Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice.

In a brief comment after the meeting, Minister Harmon informed that the Opposition requested more time to conduct their own due diligence regarding the two nominees. This request was granted by President Granger. “He requested a month to do due diligence which the President graciously agreed to…and we expect to meet again on February 7, when we will have that matter finalised,” the Minister was quoted as saying in a release issued by the Ministry of the Presidency.

Granger wants Guyana-born Belize Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin for the post of Chancellor and Guyana’s acting Chancellor, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards for the post of Chief Justice.

If the President does not get the Opposition Leader’s approval, Cummings-Edwards may very well remain as acting Chancellor and Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire as acting Chief Justice.

However, if Benjamjn gets Jagdeo’s nod, he would have to be recommended to the President for appointment as a judge by the Judicial Service Commission. After he is appointed a judge, he would be elevated to the post of Chancellor.

Pursuant to Article 127 (1) of the Constitution,  Granger on Wednesday met with Jagdeo to discuss the appointments of a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice. The two sides also discussed the nominees to the Teaching Service Commission (TSC). The Head of State’s delegation included Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon and Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, while the Opposition Leader was accompanied by Members of Parliament of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Ms. Gail Teixeira and Ms. Priya Manickchand.

The Ministry of the Presidency said the President had written to the Opposition Leader, informing him of the two persons to be appointed as Chancellor and Chief Justice. He (Mr. Jagdeo) is also in receipt of their respective resumes.

With regard to the TSC, Minister Harmon explained that the President had submitted the full list of seven nominees to Mr. Jagdeo, with whom he is required to consult. Of the seven names, the three that were identified by the President, were the subject of the discussions between the two sides. Mr. Jagdeo spoke of a convention whereby the Opposition is allowed to put forward a nomination to the Commission and in the interest of good governance, the President readily agreed.

“Clearly that is not what the law is, but in so far as us trying to ensure that we have a Commission that is fully representative [of the Guyanese society], the President agreed for the Leader of the Opposition to submit a name that he will consider. So as it is right now, the Commission is not yet established because of the need for the Leader of the Opposition to submit a name, which he has undertaken to have done very shortly because of the need to ensure that we have a Commission to deal with the issues in relation to [the teaching fraternity],” Minister Harmon said.

The provision of a name by the Opposition Leader will signal the end of the necessary consultations on the TSC. The President will then consider the Opposition’s nominee, paving the way for the appointment of this Commission.