GUYANA | Ruling on appointment of Chancellor, Chief Justice in March

GUYANA | Ruling on appointment of Chancellor, Chief Justice in March

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, January 17, 2023 - High Court Judge Justice Damone Younge,in March is expected to hand down a decision in the case brought by Mr. Vinceroy Jordan who asked the High Court to direct President Irfaan Ali to uphold Article 127 of the Constitution of Guyana regarding the appointment of a Chancellor of the Judiciary and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde told the Court that the refusal of the President to “honour his obligation under Article 127 of the Constitution,” has nothing to do with issues of non-recognition of the government and the shaking of hands which are “completely irrelevant in relation to [compliance with the law].” Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde told the Court that the refusal of the President to “honour his obligation under Article 127 of the Constitution,” has nothing to do with issues of non-recognition of the government and the shaking of hands which are “completely irrelevant in relation to [compliance with the law].” Justice Damone Younge last Wednesday heard oral arguments by Mr. Roysdale Forde SC, and Mr. Anil Nandall SC, on the substantive appointments of Chancellor and Chief Justice. Forde, who is representing applicant Mr. Vinceroy Jordan, is asking the High Court to direct President Irfaan Ali to uphold Article 127 in the Constitution of Guyana by initiating consultation with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Aubrey Norton, within two months.

The Senior Counsel is also asking the Court to declare that since assuming Office, the President has failed to engage the Leader of the Opposition on the appointments in accordance with Article 127 of the Constitution.

Article 127(1) stipulates “the Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.”

Forde told the Court the refusal of the President to “honour his obligation under Article 127 of the Constitution,” has nothing to do with issues of non-recognition of the government and the shaking of hands which are “completely irrelevant in relation to [compliance with the law].” 

Ali did state  engagement with the Opposition Leader is contingent on the Opposition- A Partnership of National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC)- recognising his government.  The handshake is a running issue between Ali and Norton about who should shake hands and why hands won’t be shaken.

The Court was told it has been more than two years since Ali’s presidency and a letter (dated May 12, 2022) was dispatched to him by Norton, calling for advancing the process of appointing a Chancellor and  Chief Justice, and Norton had indicated his willingness to support the confirmation of acting Chancellor Yonette Cummings-Edwards and acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire SC, but the President has not responded.

Attorney General Mohabir Anil Nandlall told the Court that the Constitution has set no timeframe for the appointments, and the President will engage the Leader of the Opposition on these appointments at an appropriate time.Attorney General Mohabir Anil Nandlall told the Court that the Constitution has set no timeframe for the appointments, and the President will engage the Leader of the Opposition on these appointments at an appropriate time.Respondent in the case,Attorney General Anil Nandlall, acknowledged the non-appointments, and told the court that whereas the matter is a constitutional issue, the Constitution has set no timeframe for the appointments. 

He said the President is not so “bound; neither is there any precedent or any antecedent occurrence to trigger that appointment.”

 “The only conditionality that affects the power of the President to appoint, but it is a fundamental conditionality, is that he cannot exercise that power without an agreement from the Opposition,” Nandlall told the court.

The non-appointment of a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice has attracted attention not only in Guyana but across the region. President of the Caribbean Court of Justice, Adrian Sanders, had called for these appointments before the end of 2022.

Keynote speaker at the Guyana Bar Association Dinner, April 9, 2022, Sanders said “I believe I have a right and a duty publicly to express the view that Guyana should not let this year [2022] pass and not remedy this regrettable situation.”

Further, Sanders pointed out that “for the country to have not appointed a Chancellor of the Judiciary  for 17 long years is very disappointing; likewise, to be without an appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for several years.”

Since 2005 there has been no substantive appointment of Chancellor nor Chief Justice. However, Nandlall told the Court the President will engage the Leader of the Opposition on these appointments at an appropriate time.

The incumbent Justice Cummings-Edwards was appointed acting Chancellor in 2016 and Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire SC acting Chief Justice in 2017.

Justice Younge is expected to hand down the Court’s decision in March.

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