Opposition Leader rejects President’s nominees

Appointment of Chancellor, CJ…

– green-lights persons for Integrity Commission

By Samuel Sukhnandan

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has rejected the appointment of Justice Kenneth Benjamin as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards as Chief Justice following their nomination by President David Granger.
In a letter dispatched to the media late Wednesday evening and addressed to the President, Jagdeo said, “I have duly considered the two nominees for whom you seek my agreement for appointment as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chief Justice, respectively, in accordance with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution of the

Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo

Cooperative Republic of Guyana.”
However, he noted that his decision was made following due diligence done on the candidates. “As promised, I have done the requisite due diligence. It is with deep regret that I inform you that I am unable to offer my agreement to the appointment of Mr Justice Kenneth Andrew Charles Benjamin, as Chancellor of the Judiciary and Madam Justice Yonette Decina Cummings-Edwards, OR, as Chief Justice”.
When contacted for a comment on the reason for his decision, the Opposition Leader told Guyana Times that he will discuss this matter at length today during a scheduled

Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards

press conference.
Jagdeo also defended a report that was published by the Department of Public Information (DPI) with the headline: “Opposition Leader a no show at scheduled meeting with President Granger.” Accompanying the article is a picture with the President, along with Attorney General Basil Williams and Minister of State Joseph Harmon seated at a table staring at three empty chairs across the table.
The Opposition Leader said, “This odd photograph bears the caption: ‘No Show’. It

is accompanied by a brief statement explaining that the Leader of the Opposition did not show up at a

President David Granger

meeting with the President which was scheduled a month ago, to take place today.”
However, Jagdeo said having received no information confirming the meeting for Wednesday, which he said is a usual practice; he dispatched three letters which contain his response to issues raised at the last meeting. Minister Harmon was later contacted about the letters and stated that he remains ready and willing to meet with the President at a mutually convenient time.
The last meeting held in January was held in keeping with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution which speaks to the appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice.

It states that both the Chancellor and Chief Justice shall be appointed by

Justice Kenneth Benjamin

the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition. The provision was a key aspect of the 2001 amendment to the instrument.
President Granger had announced at his first press conference in two years, in

December last year, that he has accepted a proposal from a committee that had been set up to review and interview applicants interested in the top judicial post after it advertised locally, regionally and internationally.

Jagdeo had earlier warned t

hat ev

en though the President has to make the first move to resolve the decade-long failure to appoint a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice, he would not allow himself to be coerced into accepting nominees just to fix the situation.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader in another

missive to the President noted his approval of the appointment of members of the Integrity Commission. “I offer no objection to the four persons whom you have identified for appointment to the

Integrity Commis

Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards

sion, in accordance with Section 3 (4) of the Integrity Commission Act Cap 19:12, Laws of Guyana. “I consider the totality of our engagement on this issue to be in satisfaction of the requirements of “consultation” as contemplated by the letter and spirit of section 3 (4)…”
Under the Integrity Commission Act, the President is to appoint a chairperson and other Commissioners. Although the number of nominees has been identified, the names were never disclosed.