Guyana is a most interesting country. The more things change the more they become complicated. Justice (ret’d) Cecil Kennard and Justice (ret’d) Prem Persaud were deemed by the APNU+AFC government too old to continue on as Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority and the Public Utilities Commission respectively. It was argued that both of them were nearing 80 years of age.
Not long afterwards, the President selected someone far older that either of these two Justices, as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission. The age criterion was just a sham to remove Justices Kennard and Persaud from their appointments.
The government has no age criterion. It has not adopted the recommendations of its own Commission of Inquiry into the public service which recommended raising the retirement age of public servants.
Yet, age was given as he reasons for the removal of Kennard and Persaud. Those who defended their removal overlooked the fact that if President Granger runs for reelection, he will be eighty years old by the time his second term ends.
The Local Government Commission, interestingly, has appointed Justice Kennard to chair a Commission of Inquiry into the Georgetown municipality. The LGC was obviously not influenced by the age criterion which the government used to remove Kennard and Persaud.
There is no age problem when it comes to the impasse over the appointment of a Chancellor and Chief Justice. Yet there is no solution in sight. It is a waste of time being drawn into the exchanges about who did not give reasons for the rejection of the President’s nominees. The issue is about insincerity on the part of the APNU+AFC in the appointment of the Chairperson of the GECOM.
The Leader of the Opposition is not going to be made a fool. He has shown that he can return the favour. His rejection of the President’s nominees has nothing to do with their competence but with the political differences between the PPP and the PNCR over the arbitrary appointment of the GECOM Chairman
The ball is in the President’s Court. The onus is on him to try to find a solution. The President initiated a process in which persons were required to apply to a non-constitutional body to be evaluated for appointment to the two job judicial bodies. This should never have happened. It is insulting to high and low judicial officials to be asked to apply to a body which has no ‘locus standi’ to be interviewed for the posts of Chancellor and Chief Justice.
That body came up with names and these were the President’s selection for Chancellor and Chief Justice. The Leader of the Opposition has rejected these names.
The President, if he wishes, can easily resolve this matter. All he has to do is to nominate the incumbents who are acting and Chancellor and Chief Justice. It will be politically difficult for the Leader of the Opposition to reject these nominees.
But the government behaves like a big bad bully. The government seems to feel that it must have its way, as it is doing with the arbitration process with the Guyana Teachers Union.
The understanding between the union and the Ministry of Education was that there would be arbitration and that the Chairperson of the Arbitral Tribunal would be someone agreeable to both sides. Both sides rejected each other’s nominees but the government’s motives have now become obvious.
The union thought it was being ingenious when it nominated some old men for the job of Chairperson. The government, without giving reasons, said no to these old men, two of whom served as Ministers under PNC governments
The union will rue its mistakes during the negotiations. The biggest error made by the union was that it trusted the government. It forgot the story about the scorpion and the frog. It has now been stung.
It has been betrayed by a government which it trusted. It was given a long leash when the Task Force was appointed. Now the leash has become a rope around its neck. The government is using provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to appoint someone of its choice as Chairman, without the agreement of the union. An imbalanced arbitral tribunal will be appointed.
The teachers’ struggle is over. The teachers have lost. The government has outfoxed the union which will now put its tail between its legs.
The union got what it deserved. It trusted the government even though it was bitten more than once. It will continue to trust the government. It will continue to face humiliation.
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