“I am prepared to meet with President Ali” to discuss Chancellor, Chief Justice appointments– Harmon

Last Updated on Monday, 2 August 2021, 22:38 by Denis Chabrol

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon on Monday said he was prepared to hold constitutionally required consultations with President Irfaan Ali on the appointment of a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice.

“I wish to categorically state, once again, that I am ready, willing and able to engage in consultations on this matter at the earliest opportunity. I am prepared to meet with President Ali for consultation this week, as early as tomorrow, if he is so inclined,” said Mr. Harmon.

His position came several hours after the Guyanese leader publicly refused to hold such consultations unless Mr. Harmon recognises the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) as the legitimately elected government.

The Opposition Leader earlier this year called on the President to confirm Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings and Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire who have been acting since 2017. Ms. Cummings was appointed to act as Chancellor to succeed Justice Carl Singh who retired in 2017 after acting in that position for 12 years.

But Mr. Harmon stopped short of openly dismissing Dr. Ali’s calls for A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) to admit that it lost the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections as a condition for consultations on the positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice.  “President Ali’s imposition of unrealistic, unnecessary and outrageous extra-constitutional conditionalities is clearly an attempt to further stall the appointment of a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice,” the Opposition Leader added.

Mr. Harmon accused the PPP in government and in opposition, of engaging in political intransigence that has caused Guyana to be without a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice for decades.  “The PPP simply does not want substantive appointments to be made to these two top judicial positions. The PPP wishes to hold non-confirmation as the sword of Damocles over the heads of those appointed to act,” the Opposition Leader added. Then President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sir Denis Byron had in 2017 urged “the high officials of our community” to abide by the constitution appoint the highest judicial officials, as an important means of guaranteeing judicial independence to citizens.

Then-President David Granger had wanted to appoint Guyanese Justice Kenneth Benjamin to the post of Chancellor and Justice Cummings as Chief Justice, but then-Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had refused to give his consent on the grounds  of undisclosed findings of  his due diligence.