GUYANA | Opposition files constitutional Court action against President Irfaan Ali

GUYANA | Opposition files constitutional Court action against President Irfaan Ali

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, June 23, 2022 - An action has been filed in the Guyana Supreme Court, seeking to compel Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, to appoint persons to the office of Chancellor of the Judiciary, and Chief Justice of Guyana.

Opposition Leader Aubrey NortonOpposition Leader Aubrey NortonThe application was filed by Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde in the name of Opposition MP Vinceroy Jordan,  says that Ali’s failure to consult in accordance with Article 127 of the Constitution for ensuring the permanent appointments was a “gross dereliction and abdication of [his] duty.”

The law-suit noted that for the past 17 years, since 2005 to present, the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice, in Guyana, have not been held by persons with permanent appointments to the said offices.

“It is also public knowledge that Mr. Irfaan Ali assumed the office of President on the 2nd day of August, 2020. And that since the 2nd day of August, 2020, to the present time, the President has refused to initiate any process contemplated by Article 127 of the Constitution in order that the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice be held with persons with permanent appointments.”

Article 127 of the Guyana Constitution provides for the President to obtain the agreement of the Opposition Leader  in order that the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice are held by persons with permanent appointments.

Justice Yonette Cummings (left) currently acts in the position of Chancellor while Justice Roxanne George (right) acts as Chief Justice.Justice Yonette Cummings (left) currently acts in the position of Chancellor while Justice Roxanne George (right) acts as Chief Justice.The Opposition Leader Aubrey C. Norton through his representative Mr Roysdale Forde, S.C., has written to the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira, advising that he “is in agreement that Justice Yonnette Cummings be appointed Chancellor of the Judiciary and Justice Roxanne George Wiltshire be appointed Chief Justice in keeping with Article 127 (1) of the Constitution which states that “The Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition’.

Please be assured that whenever the President is ready to appoint these two learned women to the positions of Chancellor and Chief Justice he has the unconditional agreement of the Leader of the Opposition,” the letter said.

Senior Counsel and Member of Parliament Roysdale FordeSenior Counsel and Member of Parliament Roysdale FordeThe APNU/AFC coalition in its official filing, is asking the High Court to declare among other things, that Ali has in fact failed to consult with Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton for substantive office holders for the country’s top two judicial posts.

The Coalition pointed out that “the action to file the application in the High Court was necessary because in these modern times, in the dynamic global political environment, democracy is not merely crude majority rule, as the Irfaan Ali- led government supposes.”

“It is an environment that enables political systems that combines representative and responsible government with fundamental rights, the rule of law, fairness and justice, checks and balances, impartial administration, and means of participatory engagement and open public discussions,” it said

“In encouraging and facilitating free and fair competition for public office, through elections, democracy presupposes differences of both interest and opinion, and therefore recognizes the legitimacy of political pluralism, including political opposition.

“It must be said that opposition in democracies is not merely tolerated but also valued as a vital element of the political system. Opposition parties perform crucial roles in bringing new issues to the policy agenda, shaping public debate, holding the government to account, informing and mobilizing voters, and providing voters with a choice of credible alternatives at elections,” the Opposition continued.

“To move to the High Court with this application was important because the government is setting a bad example in the area of good governance to wit: it is deliberately refusing to engage the opposition in an action- consult with the Leader of the Opposition on the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice- for which it has a legal obligation to do, under the constitution.”

“How can the government talk about the rule of law and respect for the constitution when the President is blatantly disregarding the very constitution he swore to protect?” The opposition asked.

“The action was important because a fair and independent judicial branch with the Chancellor and the Chief Justice properly appointed is a cornerstone of our democratic system of good government,” the coalition added.

In April, President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, (CCJ) Justice Adrian Saunders expressed disappointment that Guyana has not been able to have a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary and a Chief Justice in place for almost two decades, and wants to see the appointments made before the end of the year.

“As the President of your final court, I believe I have a right and a duty publicly to express the view that Guyana should not let this year pass and not remedy this regrettable situation,” Justice Saunders said as he addressed legal practitioners in Guyana at the annual dinner of the Guyana Bar Association.

 Noting that this was “one significant blot on an otherwise impressive Guyanese legal and judicial landscape,” the CCJ President said “for the country to have not appointed a Chancellor for 17 long years is very disappointing; likewise, to be without an appointed Chief Justice for several years.”

Justice Saunders was critical of  the lack of judges sitting in the Court of Appeal and challenged the government to provide the judiciary with its reasonable needs.

The last Chancellor, Justice Desiree Bernard left that position in 2005. There have been a number of acting appointments since then, with Justice Yonette Cummings currently acting in the position of Chancellor while Justice Roxanne George acts as Chief Justice.



   

  

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