Apr 16, 2021 Letters
Guyana is one of the few countries in the western hemisphere that is not affected by natural disasters like volcano, earthquakes or hurricanes, but it has politicians who are considered almost as bad and as such progress is impeded. It was more than a month ago when Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, issued a call for the acting Chancellor of the Judiciary and the acting Chief Justice to be confirmed, but since then nothing has been done or heard of. Maybe Harmon’s speech was merely to make news because he was speaking at an International Women Forum and was advocating that the two women who have been acting in their respective positions for three years be confirmed. Harmon said “I am prepared to do what is necessary to ensure that it happens”. He has not taken any step since then. However the move for the confirmation has to be initiated by the President Irfaan Ali, but he has not done so and had not stated whether or not he would do so. The confirmation of the two top legal positions has been on the horizon for decades. The last confirmed Chancellor was Desiree Bernard and when she quit to take up a higher judicial officer, a Justice of the Caribbean Court of Justice in April 2005, no confirmed appointment was made. In fact Justice Carl Singh acted as Chancellor for more than a decade until his term ended without confirmation and so was Justice Ian Chang who acted as Chief Justice until his retirement without being confirmed. He died subsequently.
It seems to me that there will never be an agreement between the government and the opposition as regards the appointment and confirmation of the two top posts and one wonders why “consultation” was removed and replaced by agreement. I seem to recall that the late Bryn Pollard, former Legal Consultant of Caricom, suggested that there be a safeguard in the constitution if there is no agreement that two thirds of Parliament should vote for the measure. This too might be difficult to achieve. It is very unfortunate that no agreement be reached despite calls and pleas from former CCJ President, Sir Denis Byron, Sir Shridath Ramphal, Desiree Bernard, former Chancellor, and even the current President of the CCJ, Adrian Saunders, and other Legal luminaries. Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, despite court rulings and a clear recount of the votes, is still maintaining that Irfaan Ali is not the legitimate President and he will not recognise that he is the Republic’s Head of State.
The only solution to this impasse is to re-amend the Constitution — removing “agreement” and replacing it with “in consultation with” and this might pose a problem because in my view a simple majority of votes is not enough to amend the Constitution, it may require either two thirds or three quarters, and if the government cannot win over the support of some opposition members, the amendment will be stalled. Therefore it is not likely that there will be a confirmation of the two top judicial officers. What a shame. If Guyana is to move forward the government and the opposition have to agree on certain aspects in the interest of the nation and the populace. The country cannot afford further gridlock and politicians must work in the interest of the country/populace and not on their personal aggrandizement. There must be more trust between the government and the opposition.
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