Statement by the Bar Council of the Bar Association of Guyana on the appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice

19th February 2018

The appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice is governed by Article 127 of the Constitution of Guyana, our supreme law. It states:

(1)   The Chancellor and the Chief Justice shall each be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition

 

(2)   If the office of Chancellor or Chief Justice is vacant or if the person holding the office of Chancellor is performing the functions of the office of President or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, or if the person holding the office of Chief Justice is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office, then, until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of such office or until the person holding such office has resumed those functions, as the case may be, those functions shall be performed by such other of the Judges as shall be appointed by the President after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.”

Article 127(1) is clear in its meaning and effect. The agreement of the Leader of the Opposition must be obtained for a substantive appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice.

Article 127(2) is invoked when the President and Opposition Leader cannot reach agreement under Article 127(1). An acting appointment is made by the President after “meaningful consultation” with the Leader of the Opposition. This has been done and therefore Article 127(2) has been fulfilled and exhausted. It is only if any of the provisos in the said Article 127(2) occur can it be invoked once again, failing which, the acting appointments continue until a substantive appointment can be made under Article 127(1).

Any action outside of the said Article 127 is unconstitutional, void, of no legal effect and would have embarrassing consequences.

The current climate surrounding the offices of the Chancellor and Chief Justice is repugnant and shakes the public confidence in the legal system. It further unfairly undermines the dignity of the offices and office holders.

In the circumstances we urge the Parties to work to break the impasse and arrive at a consensual resolution, discharging their duties to the nation and in keeping with the spirit and intent of Article 127 of the Constitution which was amended from its original form to foster collaboration.