APNU+AFC files court case over President’s failure to make permanent appointments to top judicial posts

(Photo: Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC (left) and acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards)

The court case filed by an APNU+AFC Parliamentarian over President Dr Irfaan Ali’s failure to make permanent appointments to the offices of the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice is set to be called on November 23 before Demerara High Court Judge Damone Younge.

The action brought in the name of APNU+AFC Member of Parliament (MP) Vinceroy Jordan, and filed on his behalf by Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, contended that the Head of State’s action is a gross dereliction and abdication of his duties, and is in violation of the Constitution of Guyana.

According to Article 127 (1) of the Constitution; “The President shall appoint the Chancellor and the Chief Justice after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.” Provisions for acting appointments are provided under Article 127 (2) of the Constitution.

Contending that the President has no valid and constitutional excusable reason for failing to initiate the process contemplated by Article 127 of the Constitution for appointments to be made to the two top judicial posts, Gordon is asking the High Court to direct the President, through the Attorney General, to forthwith initiate the process.

The Opposition MP complained that since assuming office in August 2020, the President has publicly expressed that he would not initiate the process to make the appointments until the Parliamentary Opposition recognises the legitimacy of the PPP/C Government.

Jordan submitted that Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton, who is also the leader of the PNC/R, via a letter, communicated to President Ali that he was committed to agreeing to the immediate appointments of Justices Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Roxane George, SC as the Chancellor and Chief Justice, respectively.

The two women have been acting in their respective posts for about five years.

Guyana has been without a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary for 17 years with the last person confirmed in the post being Justice Desiree Bernard who served from 2001-2005.

No one has been permanently appointed to the office of the Chief Justice for the past 21 years. The last confirmed Chief Justice was Justice Bernard who served from 1996 to 2001.

Guyana’s inability to make permanent appointments to these two important judicial posts for such an extended period has been a cause for concern by the country’s highest court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers (CAJO) and the Bar Association of Guyana.