President David Granger: Honourable Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and first Vice President; Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards, Chancellor of the Judiciary; Honourable Khemraj Ramjattan, Vice President and Minister of Public Security; Honourable Basil Williams, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs; Honourable Joseph Harmon, Minister of State; Honourable Justice Alison Roxane George-Wiltshire, Chief Justice; Members of the Executive, Members of the Judiciary; Invited guests; Friends; Members of the Media (not that they are not friends); Ladies and gentlemen.
The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is the country’s Supreme Law. The rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution would be impossible without an independent Judiciary. The Judiciary is the guardian of our Constitution. As you have heard the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at Article 128 (1) describes inter alia “The judges, other than the Chancellor and Chief Justice, shall be appointed by the President, who shall act in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)”.
I have received such advice.
The Chancellor of the Judiciary, acting on behalf of the Judicial Service Commission, wrote me on the 8th May, 2017 and on the 5th July, 2017 recommending the appointment of Justice Rishi Persaud as the Justice of Appeal and of Attorneys-at-Law Damone Younge, Sandil Kissoon, Simone Morris-Ramlall and Gino Persaud.
I have acted therefore, in accordance with the Constitution and I have appointed the four nominees as Puisne Judges and I now have the honour today of witnessing the administration of the Oath of Office.
Ladies and gentlemen, the independence of a Judiciary is necessary to protect the rights of citizens and to ensure that legal controversies can be settled in a lawful and orderly manner. The independence of the Judiciary secures the rule of law and acts as a safeguard against tyranny and oppression. The independence of the Judiciary must be sustained if Guyana is to remain a law based state.
The Constitution of Guyana makes provision for protecting judicial independence against the perils of executive and legislative encroachment. Let me assure you that the Executive branch of government is unreservedly committed to promoting, to protecting and to preserving judicial independence. The independence of the judiciary can be safeguarded through respect for the separation of powers.
The philosopher Montesquieu, in his magisterial work 1748 entitled, “The Spirit of Law”, argued that the separation of power between the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of government is the best form of government. He argued that liberty is threatened if the judiciary cannot be separated from the legislative and executive power. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control for the judge would then be the legislator; were it joined to the executive power then the judge might behave with violence and oppression.
The independence of the Judiciary also could be safeguarded to respect for the rule of law. The independence of the Judiciary is necessary to ensure the integrity of the rule of law. The rule of law requires that everyone should be subject to the law, it prescribes that no one should be above the law. The rule of law stands in contradistinction to arbitrary, capricious and unlawful rule. The independence of the Judiciary further could be safeguarded through respect for the principle of non-interference. We desire in Guyana, a Judiciary which is unbiased, which is unblemished and which is unbridled.
The Constitution proscribes interference in the work of the Judiciary. As you know, Article 122 (A) of our Constitution 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.
Ladies and gentlemen, 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 judicial branch. Threats to the independence of the Judiciary must be repelled. The Judiciary has a vital role to play and it must regulate its own independence.
Judicial officers must be held to high standards of independence, integrity and impartiality. This is what makes them ‘fit and proper’ to perform the functions of their office: integrity, independence and impartiality- three watchwords.
Judges must be rigorous and scrupulous in their legal research, conscientious in hearing matters and cogent in their judgements.
Judges are expected to be exemplars of high moral standards and of personal propriety. Independence and the efficiency of the Judiciary rely on there being a full complement of judges and we will ensure respect for judicial appointments. We will support the efforts of the Judiciary by ensuring that vacancies are filled. We expect all recommendations for appointment will be based on merit. The Executive does not dictate who must be appointed. We however, regard those recommendations that do emerge will be done from a dispassionate and objective process.
Ladies and gentlemen, this ceremony today is a reflection of our commitment in filling vacancies in our judicial system. It is also an affirmation of our commitment to ensuring that our judicial system will be independent. I look forward to the judges sworn in today continuing to exemplify the high standards of our judicial system.
We expect that judicial officials of Guyana would be respected throughout the country, throughout the community, and throughout the world.
Congratulations and thank you.