President David Granger: Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards; Minister of State, Honourable Joseph Harmon; Chief Justice, Roxane George; Justice of Appeal, Justice Dawn Gregory; Members of the Judiciary; distinguished guests; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen.
Allow me to join in congratulating Justices Dawn Gregory and Roxane George on their elevation in the judiciary to the positions to Justice of Appeal.
The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the Supreme law protects and preserves the impartiality, the independence and the integrity of the judicature. Guyana is a parliamentary democracy, committed to the rule of law and to the protection of the people’s rights and freedoms. The supremacy of the Constitution, the legitimacy of government, the efficacy of political democracy and the safety and felicity of our people would be impossible without the existence of an independent judicature. The judicature is fundamental to good governance because it protects the people’s rights and it prevents the emergence of autocracy and tyranny.
The Constitution recognises the separate roles and responsibilities of the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches of government.
The Constitution makes special provisions for protecting the judiciary against the perils of executive domination and of legislative encroachment.
The Constitution proscribes interference in the work of the judiciary. Article 122 A (1) states:
All courts and all persons presiding over the courts shall exercise their functions independently of the control and direction of any other person or authority; and shall be free and independent from political, executive and any other form of direction and control.
Nothing can be clearer.
Ladies and gentlemen the executive branch of government has no interest in interfering in the adjudicatory role of the judiciary. The executive has taken steps to ensure that the judiciary does not feel beholden to the government of the day. The enactment of the Fiscal Management and Accountability Amendment Act of 2015 provided, for the first time, for the full financial autonomy of the judiciary in accordance with the Constitution.
Judicial independence means that the judiciary must be protected from both private and partisan interests on the one hand; i.e. is coming from persons or pressure groups and also on the other hand from the influence and control of the other branches of government.
Judicial independence is essential to ensure the integrity of the rule of law. The rule of law requires that everyone should be subject to the law and prescribes that no one should be above the law.
Judicial independence acts to prevent the derogation from the rule of law. Respect for the rule of law is the foundation of a law based society; one which can be sustained only by an independent judiciary. The Government will continue to respect judicial independence.
Ladies and gentlemen the executive branch of government also has no interest in interfering in the work of the judiciary. It seeks, only, the preservation of a judiciary that is unbiased, unblemished and unmindful of personal prejudices.
The Judiciary has a vital role to play in maintaining its own independence. Judicial officers must demonstrate the highest standards of impartiality as you have heard them say a few minutes ago without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
Judicial officers must be rigorous in their research, conscientious in their consideration of matters brought before them and cogent in their judgments. It is an ineffable principle of justice that decisions should be based only on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, betraying improper preference for one person or one group of persons over others.
The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana empowers the Judicial Service Commission, inter alia, “… to make appointments … and to remove and to exercise disciplinary control…” over certain judicial and legal officers. This is why we are here today.
The Commission is expected to be fearless; the fearless custodian of the highest standard of judges’ personal conduct; the Commission is obliged to ensure that its recommendations for appointments be made only on the bases of clearly defined criteria applied in and when assessing the appropriateness of appointees for high offices. The people of Guyana expect that those recommendations will emerge only from a dispassionate and objective process.
Judges and magistrates are expected to be exemplars of high moral standards and personal propriety.
The Government will continue to respect the authority and the dignity of the judiciary. The judiciary’s efficiency relies on there being a full complement of judges and magistrates.
The Government will support the efforts of the Judicial Service Commission in ensuring that vacancies are filled promptly in order to ensure respect for the recommendations for judicial appointments based on the objective criteria, which have been prescribed.
The JSC is aware that an ethically compromised judiciary can cripple the institutional mechanisms established by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch of Government.
The installation ceremony of judges this morning, therefore, is an affirmation of the Government’s commitment to ensuring a judicial system that respects the values of independence of impartiality and integrity.
Once again, congratulations and my best wishes to you in your service.