Previous Govt did not initiate process for Chancellor, CJ appointment – AG maintains

─ says President Ali to initiate constitutional process at appropriate time

The opposition parties, Peoples National Congress ((PNC) and the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change Coalition (APNU+AFC) have never agreed to a substantive Chancellor or Chief Justice of the Judiciary in over 17 years and did not even initiate the constitutional process required to kick start the way during 2015 to 2020 when they were in the executive branch of government.

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall

This is according to the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Minister, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, MP, maintained that President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, will initiate that process at the appropriate time, while giving snippets of history on the programme “Issues in the News” aired on social media, Tuesday.

Minister Nandlall questioned the basis of the most recent lawsuit against him by an opposition politician who claimed that the president breached the constitution by not initiating dialogue with the Leader of the Opposition since August 2nd, 2020 to secure an agreement for the appointment of the chief justice and chancellor.

“But the engagement must take place because the constitution requires it but that’s the president’s call. And the president will initiate that process at the appropriate time. And, the president has said so…”, the minister said.

He maintained that Guyanese should be reminded of the fact that the previous regime did absolutely nothing to initiate the process of the two appointments when it was in office from 2015 to 2020.

The minister said that the requirement for agreement between the President and the Leader of the Opposition in respect of these appointments came out of the wider constitutional reform process of 1999 to 2000.

Minister Nandlall said since this change, Vice President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who was President at the time, tried several times to no avail, to get an agreement from the then Leader of the Opposition for the Chancellor and Chief Justice to be appointed. At the time when the Constitution was changed to introduce this requirement, the Hon. Desiree Bernard was the Chancellor and Justice Carl Singh was the Chief Justice. Upon Chancellor Bernard being elevated to the Caribbean Court of Justice, Chief Justice Carl Singh was appointed to act as Chancellor and Justice of Appeal, the late Ian Chang was appointed to act as Chief Justice. President Jagdeo made numerous attempts to have these two acting appointments confirmed but Leader of the Opposition Robert Corbin repeatedly refused to offer his agreement:

‘’When Hon. Donald Ramotar was elected President, as Attorney General, between 2011 and 2015, I sat in many meetings of President Ramotar with then Leader of the Opposition, Hon. David Granger where President Ramotar requested Mr. Granger to agree that Justice Singh and Justice Chang’s acting appointments be confirmed. On each occasion Mr. Granger refused to offer his agreement.’’

The opposition continued its policy of obstructing and delaying the process:

“Mr Granger became President in 2015. It is the President…who must do the initiation. President Granger not once ever attempted to engage the Leader of the Opposition, Bharat Jagdeo, from 2015 to 2020, in respect of securing an agreement for the persons acting in the office of Chief Justice and the office of Chancellor…’’ he maintained.  

He said that as a result, several things occurred:

“During this period both Justice Chang and Justice Carl Singh demitted office without being confirmed as Chief Justice and Chancellor respectively. Then Justice Yonette Cummings was appointed to act as Chief Justice when Justice Chang retired. When Justice Carl Singh demitted office, she was appointed to act as Chancellor and Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire was appointed to act as Chief Justice. President Granger never approached then Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo on substantive appointments for these two offices. Instead, it is public knowledge that he attempted to import a Judge from Belize whom he wanted to appoint to the post of Chancellor. For this he was publicly criticized. The matter was reported in the press,’’ the minister said.

Nandlall confirmed too that “Not once did President Granger initiate an engagement with the Leader of the Opposition Jagdeo, to confirm any of these people in the office. What President Granger attempted to do, was to try to bring someone from outside of Guyana, whom he intended to put to act as Chancellor and the newspaper reports are there to confirm…”

Minister Nandlall reflected on the recent case filed by the Leader of the Opposition against the Attorney General on the issue of consultation:

“…the Chief Justice gave him a sound tongue lashing about his behaviour and said that the President was right to ignore him at one point in time and go ahead and make the appointments because he was being obstructionist. He was being confrontational and we won the case. The Chief Justice did not find anything wrong with the appointments. What the Chief Justice found wrong was the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition, and his failure to make any constructive contribution to the consultative process. His failure to even provide a nominee. No basis putting put forward for his objections…. No objection is being put forward. He did not put forward an objection. All he wanted was more information. More information, more information. That was what characterised his conduct in those engagements. And now they are suing us to go and engage them again”, he said.

Minister Nandlall said that the opposition was sowing seeds of doubt about successive PPP Governments’ efforts to get someone confirmed in the two offices when in fact it is the Opposition who was mainly responsible for this lack of confirmation.