Georgetown, Guyana – (July 22, 2017) The Ministry of the Presidency refutes any assertion that President David Granger has rejected the ruling of acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire on the case brought against the Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, by Mr. Marcel Gaskin, a private citizen, who had asked the High Court to provide an interpretation of the Constitution as it relates to the selection of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Any commentary to contrary is clearly a deliberate misinterpretation.
There is no indication that the Head of State ‘dismissed’ the Chief Justice’s ruling, nor that he does not observe the separation of powers between the Executive Branch of Government and the Judiciary. In fact what President Granger actually said is that he will continue to act according to the requirements of the Constitution. Speaking to members of the media last Wednesday, the Head of State said, “I will continue to act within my perception of the Constitution; that is to say, that I will not appoint somebody that I do not consider ‘fit and proper’.”
The words ‘fit and proper’ are taken directly from Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana and are an iteration of what the acting Chief Justice is reported to have said in her ruling based on her perception of that Article. While the President believes that the Constitution was crafted the way it was to give preference to the appointment of ‘a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge’, he has never disagreed with acting Chief Justice’s ruling in that the Constitution clearly states that ‘any other fit and proper person’ can be appointed. President Granger’s comments complement and do not contradict that ruling.
As early as January 2017, during the a recording of The Public Interest, the President had said that he believes that what the drafters of the Constitution had in mind was someone who had arrived at the position of a judge, as it is expected that person would have been someone, who possesses the qualities of impartiality, integrity and intelligence. The President added that any ‘fit or proper person’ must approximate those qualities that characterise what is expected of a judge.
President Granger went on to tell media operatives that he remains committed to the spirit of the Constitution. “I do not believe that anything that the Honourable Chief Justice said has diminished my regard for the word or the spirit of the Constitution. I do believe that the person must be independent, must be impartial and I am looking for that independence and that impartiality,” he said.
Further, any report or suggestion that the President does not observe the separation of powers is blatantly dishonest and mischievous. In fact, during his remarks at the Swearing in Ceremony of four new Puisne judges and a Justice of Appeal, the President reiterated the importance of an independent Judiciary.
“The Executive Branch of Government has no interest in interfering in the adjudicatory role of the judiciary nor will it condone any interference in the work of the judiciary. Threats to the independence of the judiciary must be repelled… Judges are expected to be exemplars of high moral standards and personal propriety,” the President said.
The Head of State remains committed to that separation and nothing in his word or actions have demonstrated anything otherwise.