I hope that the Leader of the Opposition and President Ali will reach an agreement on two top judicial posts
The statement by opposition leader Joseph Harmon, in which he asks for confirmation from the incumbent Chancellor and Chief Justice, is the most important and meaningful declaration he has made since he took office. Yonette Cummings-Edwards has been Chancellor for 4 years and Roxane George has been Chief Justice for the same period. It is long overdue for the republic to have a confirmed head of justice and a chief judge. The last confirmed Chancellor and Chief Justice was in April 2005, when then-Chancellor Desiree Bernard was appointed Judge at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). If President Irfaan Ali puts the names in front of him for confirmation, Harmon is expected to endorse the confirmation.
The failure to confirm the top two positions in the judiciary was due to the opposition leader (s) withholding his / her consent. In December 2017 at the latest, the then opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo, Kenneth Benjamin, refused to support a scholar from Guyana, who was the Chief Justice of Belize at the time. According to the constitution, the opposition leader must approve the appointment. The term “in consultation” has been deleted since 2001 – two decades ago – and replaced by “agreement”. Bernard, the last confirmed Chancellor, is very unhappy that there has been no confirmation of the position and three years ago openly expressed hope for confirmation. And because of the disagreement, Carl Singh and Ian Chang served as Chancellor and Chief Justice respectively without confirmation during their long tenure.
Three presidents failed to convince the opposition leaders to reach a consensus. It was / is a shame. Current Attorney General Anil Nandlall recently said that if the opposition leader continues to hold back his approval, “it may be time to revise the constitutional requirement to remove the provision for consultation”. Nandlall added that the drafters of the constitution had absolutely no intention of not filling the top two positions with confirmed candidates. Let us hope that the opposition leader and President Ali can come to an agreement so that the appointments can be made immediately.