Address of His Excellency Brigadier David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, at the Swearing-in Ceremony of Justices Roxanne George-Wiltshire and Justice Dawn Gregory as Justices of the Court of Appeal of Guyana
Independence, impartiality and integrity
The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana – the supreme law – protects and preserves the independence, impartiality and integrity of the Judicature. Guyana is a parliamentary democracy, committed to the rule of law and to the protection of the people’s rights and freedoms.
The supremacy of the Constitution, the legitimacy of government, the efficacy of political democracy and the safety and felicity of our people would be impossible without the existence of an independent judicature.
The judicature is fundamental to good governance because it protects the people’s rights and prevents the emergence of autocracy.
The Constitution recognises the separate roles and responsibilities of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. The Constitution makes special provisions for protecting Judicature against the perils of executive domination and legislative encroachment.
The Constitution proscribes interference in the work of the judiciary. Article 122A (1) states:
All courts and all persons presiding over the courts shall exercise their functions independently of the control and direction of any other person or authority; and shall be free and independent from political, executive and any other form of direction and control.
The Executive branch of government has no interest in interfering in the adjudicatory role of the judiciary. The Executive has taken steps to ensure that the judiciary does not feel beholden to the government of the day. The enactment of the Fiscal Management and Accountability (Amendment) Act of 2015 provided, for the first time, for the financial autonomy of the judiciary in accordance with the Constitution.
Judicial independence means that the judiciary must be protected from both private and partisan interests, such as from persons or pressure groups, and from the influence and control of the other branches of government.
Judicial independence is essential to ensure the integrity of the rule of law. The rule of law requires that everyone should be subject to the law and prescribes that no one should be above the law.
Judicial independence acts to prevent the derogation from the rule of law. Respect for the rule of law is the foundation of a law-based society, one which can be sustained only by an independent judiciary. The Government will continue to respect judicial independence.
The Executive branch of government has no interest in interfering in the work of the judiciary. It seeks, only, the preservation of a judiciary which is unbiased, unblemished and unmindful of personal prejudices.
The judiciary has a vital role to play in maintaining its own independence. Judicial officers must demonstrate the highest standards of impartiality. They must be rigorous in their research, conscientious in consideration of matters brought before them and cogent in their judgments.
It is an ineffable principle of justice that decisions should be based only on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, betraying improper preference for one person or one group of persons over others.
The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana empowers the Judicial Service Commission, inter alia, “…to make appointments…and to remove and to exercise disciplinary control…” over certain judicial and legal officers.
The Commission is expected to be the fearless custodian of the highest standards of judges’ personal conduct. The Commission is obliged to ensure that its recommendations for appointments will be made only on the bases of clearly defined criteria applied in assessing the appropriateness of appointees.
The people expect that those recommendations will emerge only from a dispassionate and objective process. Judges and magistrates are expected to be exemplars of high moral standards and personal propriety.
The Government will continue to respect the authority and dignity of the judiciary. The judiciary’s efficiency relies on there being a full complement of judges and magistrates. The Government will support the efforts of the Judicial Service Commission in ensuring that vacancies are filled ensure respect the recommendations for judicial appointments based on the objective criteria which have been prescribed.
The JSC is aware that an ethically compromised judiciary can cripple the institutional mechanisms established by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch of Government.
This installation ceremony of judges is an affirmation of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a judicial system that reflects the values of independence, impartiality and integrity.