…reiterates desire to have Benjamin, Edwards confirmed
Government is optimistic that the agenda for an upcoming meeting between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo will include getting persons for a number of key commissions and judicial posts, appointed.
President Granger on Wednesday revealed plans to meet with the Opposition Leader as soon as possible. He made the comments on the sidelines of a State House event on Wednesday. Among the topics to be discussed, he said, will be filling vacancies on the Police and Public Service Commissions.
“I expect that we will be meeting the Leader of the Opposition very soon to deal with a range of appointments and that is one of them. The Public Service Commission and the Police Service Commission,” Granger said.
Asked how soon the meeting would take place, Granger noted that he could not definitively say since they are awaiting the National Assembly’s Committee of Appointments to make nominations for at least one of these commissions.
“I cannot say. I have to wait on Parliament for the nominations. We already have the nominations for the Police Service Commission. (They) have not nominated a Public Service Commission. But as soon as the Parliament completes its work, I will ask the Leader of the Opposition.”
Granger was also asked for an update on the status of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), headless since the resignation of retired Justice Cecil Kennard. He noted that there is a nominee.
Chancellor and CJ
He also commented on the current impasse between himself and the Opposition Leader, as it pertains to the appointments of a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice. While Granger noted that he had expected Jagdeo to submit a counter proposal, he conceded that this would form one of his topics with the Opposition Leader.
“Well you know where we stood. I went through every possible legitimate means. I got the best advice. I had offered him my advice and he has rejected it. He has not come up with an alternative. So when we meet, I will raise the matter with him.”
Granger admitted that he did not ask Jagdeo to make counter proposals, but he noted that everyone knows, who his nominees are and he reiterated his desire to see the duo, Justice Kenneth Benjamin and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, confirmed.
“I would like to ensure that the two names to the top posts, Chancellor and Chief Justice, are confirmed to the positions. It is very unhealthy to have a Chancellor and Chief Justice who are acting and I would like to have them confirmed.”
“The public knows my nominees and they are persons who have come through a process. And the advice I’ve received is that they’re fit and proper to be appointed,” the President insisted.
However, only recently, the President had said that there was nothing left to discuss on the matter.
Justice Kenneth Benjamin was nominated for the position of Chancellor of the Judiciary, while Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, the current acting Chancellor, has been nominated for the position of Chief Justice.
Concerns had been raised by the Bar Association in Belize about Benjamin’s failure, up to recently, to clear a backlog of cases by writing his decisions.
Jagdeo, in a letter addressed to the President, had said after having duly considered the nominations of Justice Benjamin and Justice Cummings-Edwards under Article 127 (2) of the Constitution, he is unable to offer his agreement for their appointments.
However, the Opposition Leader has since indicated his willingness to further engage the President on substantive appointments to the top judicial positions.
To this end, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, subsequently said Government will be going ahead with “meaningful consultations” between the two sides, as provided for in the Constitution.