Belizean CJ officially nominated for Chancellor’s post
…consultation letter sent to Opposition Leader
There have been several media reports that Belizean Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has been tipped to become the new Chancellor of the Judiciary of Guyana, and President David Granger has officially written to Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, inviting him to a meeting to discuss the nomination.
The Government has moved to nominate Belizean Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin as Guyana’s Chancellor while the current acting Chancellor, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, has been nominated to become Guyana’s Chief Justice – a position in which she acted from December 2015 to May 2017, when she commenced acting as Chancellor of the Judiciary at the behest of President Granger.
Speaking to the media at the People’s Progressive Party end-of-year press conference, Jagdeo confirmed receiving correspondence from President David Granger informing him of these nominations.
“A letter was sent to me from the President, nominating Justice Benjamin for the post of Chancellor and Justice Cummings for the post of Chief Justice…So we’re trying to schedule that meeting for next week (this week),” Jagdeo told the media.
This publication has learnt that Benjamin was interviewed earlier this year for the post. He was then handpicked by a committee put together by President David Granger and Attorney General Basil Williams.
Benjamin had previously worked for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), having served as a magistrate and judge advocate during his stint, before migrating overseas. He studied at the Hugh Wooding Law School before going on to hold several high-level portfolios in the judicial system at home, in the Caribbean, and further afield.
Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Madam Justice Yonnet Cummings- Edwards, was appointed by President David Granger in May of this year. Prior to that, she acted as the Chief Justice from December 2015. She was never confirmed in the substantive position.
Justice Cummings-Edwards had replaced Justice Carl Singh, who retired after acting as Chancellor since 2005.
On the other hand, the current Acting Chief Justice, Justice Roxane George, was also appointed to act in that position in May of 2017, on the same day that Justice Cummings-Edwards was appointed to act as Chancellor.
Back in March 2017, President Granger has consulted with Opposition Leader Jagdeo before appointing Cummings-Edwards as acting Chancellor and George as acting CJ. Article 127 of the Constitution says, “The Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.”
Both posts were then advertised, and applications have been received, as recommended by President Granger. Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, was quoted then as saying, “A panel was put together, which comprised former Justice of Appeal Ms Claudette Singh; Mr James Patterson, and Mr Harold Lutchman. The panel, of course, met, and we are awaiting the report of that panel. Once that is submitted to His Excellency the President, he will, in due course, make his decision on the matter.”
An undertaking was made to have the report and the information derived from the interview process submitted to the Leader of the Opposition, according to the Minister of State.