May 28, 2017 News
The APNU- AFC coalition has not changed its views when it comes to upholding the level of
transparency needed in the various aspects of governance.
This sentiment was expressed by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.
Williams was at the time making renewed calls for a more transparent, recruitment and selection process for appointing Judges.
In the past, members of the Coalition had voiced concerns over the process employed to appoint persons to sit at the helm of the Judiciary.
While in opposition the party had expressed discontent over what was referred to as secret appointments/handpicking of Judges to satisfy vacancies within the Judiciary.
Instead of appointments “by invitation,” the coalition had called on the Judicial Service Commission, (JSC) to adopt a system which relies on publicly advertised notices of vacancies and open competitiveness so as to attract the best possible candidates to fill the vacancies.
In his most recent comments on the matter, the Attorney General, (AG) listed qualifications, experience, expertise, integrity and work ethic, among the issues to be considered in the selection of such persons.
The AG noted that Judges are a special breed of people; therefore the medium used to employ Judges should be articulated by standards and competencies, and schemes to enhance the pool of qualified applicants.
“The process should not be a closed one because it limits the scope of ensuring that those holding judicial offices are selected solely on the basis of merit,” the AG posited.
He further stated that it has always been the desire of the coalition to have the process of selection conducted in an open manner, so as to allow those holding the offices of Judges to undergo fair and open competition.
With recent appointments of Appellate Judges and impending appointments of more Puisne Judges, Williams noted it is still the wish of the government to see the procedure used by the JSC amended.
“But we don’t want to appear as though we are imposing our will on the Judiciary. We will not impose. We can’t tell the JSC how to do their job but our position has not changed,” the AG stated.
Shedding some light on the current process of employment for adjudicators, Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards explained that the recommendations of the JSC follow a process of careful evaluation.
Suitably qualified individuals are then invited by the Commission to apply for the position.
“Those invited to apply are selected based on their conduct, competence, character, performance and qualifications.”
“The applicants are then shortlisted and interviewed by the JSC. Based on that process, the JSC would make recommendations to the President for judicial appointments.”
The Chancellor nonetheless noted that while this has been the practice of the Judiciary for some time, “The issue is one of tradition that is not necessarily etched in stone.”
While it is the practice of the JSC to invite applicants, Justice Cummings-Edwards asserted that there is nothing stopping suitably qualified individuals from applying to the JSC.
“We have had such applications in past and they were taken into consideration by the Commission.”
As it regards, advertising the vacancies, the Head of Judiciary said that she sees nothing wrong with amending the rules of the JSC to widen the scope of having the vacancies filled based on the basis of merit, through open competitiveness.
“It would be something for the Commission to take into consideration,” added the Chancellor.
Among the most recent appointments of Appellate Judges were Justices Roxanne George-Wiltshire and Justice Dawn Gregory.
During the swearing in ceremony, President Granger said that the Commission is empowered by the Constitution of Guyana to make appointments, remove, and to exercise disciplinary control over certain judicial and legal officers.
He said that the government will support the efforts of the Judicial Service Commission in ensuring that vacancies are filled to ensure respect for the recommendations of judicial appointments, based on the objective criteria which have been prescribed.
Meanwhile, the process is underway to have more Judges appointed to the court, as there still is an existing shortage.
Four more persons have been tipped to fill the vacancies for Puisne Judges.
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