Agreement is required between the Leader of the Opposition and the President for the appointment of the Commissioner of Police, the Chief Justice and the Chancellor of the Judiciary. The Constitution requires that there be agreement.
That agreement has not been forthcoming for many years now. Ever since the time when Robert Corbin was the Leader of the Opposition, agreement was not reached on the confirmation of both the Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary. Robert Corbin is no longer the Leader of the Opposition. There is a new Leader of the Opposition. Yet there remains no agreement on the appointment of the two top positions in the judiciary.
In fact it was reported that during the consultations on the appointment of the Chief Justice and the Chancellor, it was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition that there be a process that would involve persons being interviewed for the job.
This does not necessarily mean that the Leader of the Opposition was opposed to the confirmation of the acting Chief Justice and acting Chancellor. Instead, it was indicated that what was being suggested was a process that would allow for the best persons for those two top positions to be found.
The Constitution, however, does not speak to any panel. It speaks to agreement between the President and the Leader of the Opposition. It is part of a process of constitutional change, intended to give the opposition a more meaningful role in certain appointments. It is power-sharing through consensus. Like other consensual mechanisms, this one has failed. It has led to gridlock.
The suggestion of a panel does not help break the gridlock that arose over the appointment of these two positions. Let us perchance suppose that the proposed panel throws up some names. What happens then if there is no agreement amongst the country’s foremost political leaders? It effectively makes a mockery of the process. On the other hand, if there is gridlock on the appointment, then a way has to be found to break the gridlock.
But why should there be gridlock? Gridlock only arises if there can be no agreement, and this can only result if the candidates proposed by the President are not agreed to by the Leader of the Opposition and vice versa. This can be the only basis for gridlock. In other words, why would there be a need to find the best person other than if the existing appointees are not considered as the best persons?
The opposition says that its proposal for a panel to interview candidates for the posts is to ensure that the best persons for the two positions are found. This is why it is saying it proposes a panel as a means to break the gridlock. But is it not at the same time implicitly saying that the best persons cannot be found between the two leaders at the moment? Since the government is proposing the two incumbents and the opposition is proposing a panel to interview candidates, it can only mean that the opposition does not view the President’s nominees as the best candidates, or it wants a wider process to satisfy itself that the best candidates are found.
So it has to be one of two things. Either the opposition is not in agreement with the two candidates, or it wants a wider process to ensure that the best person is selected. But as mentioned before, what happens if that process turns up names on which there is no agreement? Gridlock ensues again.
What makes the situation all the more interesting is that while the opposition broached this proposal for a panel to interview candidates for the position of Chancellor and Chief Justice, it was presented with the opportunity to do the same in relation to the appointment of the Commissioner of Police.
How strange it is that the opposition did not call for a panel to be empanelled to consider suitable applications for the position of Commissioner of Police. Indeed the opposition claimed that the acting Commissioner was the best man for the job. It found the best man without having to go to a panel. Therefore why can it not find the best jurists for the positions of Chief Justice and Chancellor without also having to go to a panel?
The opposition has a lot of questions to answer about the swiftness with which they moved to agree on the appointment of the Commissioner of Police, even while they held on to the position that for the positions of Chief Justice and Chancellor of the Judiciary, a panel should be established to find the best persons for the job.
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