RECENTLY, there has been a conversation and debate brewing in which there are many calls for President, Dr Irfaan Ali to move ahead with the process and confirm the appointment of a Chief Justice and a Chancellor of the Judiciary.
While some are willing to wait until President Ali is ready to move the process forward at the right time, others are a bit skeptical and feel that the right time is now.
Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton, seeing what is playing out publicly and seeking to amass popularity, moved this week to write a formal letter to Minister of Governance and Parliamentary Affairs, Gail Teixeira.
He outlined his unconditional agreement with Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire to be confirmed to the positions for which they have been acting since 2017, respectively.
Meanwhile, it has been a long 17 and 21 years since Guyana had a confirmed Chancellor and Chief Justice, with the last person to hold both offices substantively being Justice Desiree Bernard in 1996 and 2005.
Norton said he wanted to save the President from asking for his agreement. Notably, Teixeira and the President are yet to respond to his vexatious and politically-tricky letter.
President Ali insists that he will stick to his oath of office, and there will be appointments to these posts, but who, how, and when are still to be decided.
It is troubling, firstly, that Norton and the APNU+AFC Opposition feel that they are going to bully or force the hand of President Ali to make an appointment to the offices in that way, and now for that matter. Norton knows that he does not have the power to suggest names or cause the President to appoint the Justices substantively. The Opposition Leader knows that he is merely being opportunistic and premature.
He is playing politics with the appointments.
President Ali should continue with the process of having the Constitutional Rights Commission, statutory office holders, and bodies in place and then look at this issue with the urgency it deserves. Secondly, if this recommendation is adhered to, President Ali and the PPP/C could have the electoral reforms and have certain constitutional amendments passed in Parliament.
These amendments would contain sweeping changes as they deem necessary to remedy the problem.
The Parliament could have a bi-partisan group of parliamentarians looking closely at the issues relating to the appointment for the two posts. They can deal with the procedures for the appointment of Chancellor and Chief Justice as outlined in Articles 127 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of Guyana.
This way, the Opposition APNU+AFC will be duly part and parcel of the process because it is a fact that having a speedy and swift Constitutional Reform Commission inclusive of the voice of civic society entities and the public is the only way to remedy this decades-old conflict.
Such a move will have the formula changed to guide the selection and approval of candidates.
This problem is not only a burning conflict now but should be fixed for future Presidents and office holders. There are other qualified persons who may be interested in the job right here in Guyana and further afield apart from the duo.
Does President Ali look past them?
Previously, Norton did not explicitly give the same energy and approval for years when the PPP nominated suitably qualified persons in the form of the late Ian Chang and Justice Carl Singh to fill the posts.
President Ali knows not to go with the crowd; what is popular and easy is not necessarily the right decision. A great leader does not take short cuts.