Mechanism for appointment of Chancellor, Chief Justice to be examined during national consultation – Attorney General
─ for constitutional reform
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, said Guyana could examine the mechanism used to appoint a Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice in the upcoming countrywide consultation process for constitutional reform. Government will soon embark on a widespread constitutional reform process as it seeks to upgrade archaic pieces of legislation embedded in Guyana’s Constitution, a commitment made in the 2020 manifesto.
One of the issues the government is hoping to remedy is the longstanding deadlock between any one sitting government and the opposition over the appointments of a chancellor and a chief justice.
Addressing a virtual panel on ‘Constitutional Reform and the Republic: The Judicial Selection Process in the Context of Administration of Justice and Democratic Strengthening’ on Sunday, the attorney general said Guyana has the extreme position where the appointments of the chancellor and chief justice must be made by the head of the executive and the leader of the opposition. However, the system has not been working.
He is hopeful that the ‘political directorate’ would find a consensus mechanism going forward.
“Hopefully one of the provisions which will be microscopically examined in this process is the very article that speaks to the appointment of a Chancellor and a Chief Justice [and] hopefully we will get recommendations emanating out of the process which will find political consensus because you know, you require two-thirds majority to change these provisions in the constitution.”
Guyana has been without a substantive chief justice and chancellor for over two decades.
Before her ascension to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in 2005, Justice Desiree Bernard was the last confirmed Chancellor of the Judiciary, and Justice Carl Singh the last Chief Justice.
“Unfortunately, the reality has been that we have never been able to appoint a chancellor or a chief justice substantively to those offices because we have never been able to secure an agreement between the president and the leader of the opposition,” the Attorney General relayed.
Justices Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Roxane George were appointed in 2017 to act in the capacity of chancellor and chief justice respectively by former President, David Granger.
Guyana is moving head-on with constitutional reform.
In August, the government presented the Constitutional Reform Commission Bill 2022 to the National Assembly, an Act seeking to establish a Constitutional Reform Commission.
The commission will be responsible for the revision of the constitution to provide for the current and future rights, duties, liabilities, and obligations of Guyanese.