President says Judicial Service Commission to be appointed “soon”, after Attorney General’s promise fades

Last Updated on Friday, 31 March 2023, 17:31 by Denis Chabrol

President Irfaan Ali on Friday said the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) would be appointed “soon”, although Attorney General Anil Nandlall sought to assure a gravely concerned judiciary that would have been done early in the first quarter of 2023.

He explained that the JSC requires a fully constituted Public Service Commission. “We are finalising the work. There are outstanding issues from Parliament and some other agency to have the Public Service Commission up very soon and you know when I say ‘very soon’ you just have to look for the notice; it could be at your door-step,” he told a news conference at the Leonora Track and Field Stadium.

Dr Ali said the next step to have all the members of the JSC which would be sworn in and deal with the various matters. Guyana’s Constitution requires the President to appoint judges, other than the Chancellor and the Chief Justice, on the JSC’s advice.

Amid a barrage of criticism and calls by acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings and acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire for the swift end to a prolonged delay in appointing the JSC so that more judges could be appointed to ease the severe workload, Attorney General Anil Nandlall on January 10, 2023 had publicly promised that the Commission would have been appointed very early in the first quarter of 2023. ,

The first quarter ends on March 31 without such an appointment, and President Ali stating that, “the government is run by the President and I take my responsibility very seriously.”

In seeking to brush off a question about why the JSC has not yet been appointed, the Guyanese leader repeatedly stated that Guyana has a Chancellor and a Chief Justice. “The country is not without a Chancellor or Chief Justice. Let’s make this point very clear. Guyana is not without a Chancellor or Chief Justice. We have an acting Chancellor and an acting Chief Justice. The second thing is that we are taking the issue of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice,” he said.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has repeatedly criticised the fact that those two top judicial offices have not had substantive appointments since 2005 due to the failure by the sitting opposition at any given time to give it constitutional support for government’s nominees.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton has already formally informed government that he supports the substantive appointment of the current acting officeholders of Chancellor and Chief Justice.

In December 2021, a government minister had frowned on Chancellor Cummings and Justice of Appeal Dawn Gregory for handing down election-related judgements were biased, but after criticism from the Guyana Bar Association , he edited his Facebook post and removed the words “biased” and “defrocked.”