AG claims Benjamin was recommended for appointment

first_imgChancellor’s selectionDespite reports that Justice Kenneth Benjamin was not the favoured candidate for the position of Chancellor of the Judiciary, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams maintains that he was the ideal candidate selected by a review committee and recommended by President David Granger.Williams, on Monday, fended off questions from the media about the circumstances which led to the selection of Justice Benjamin for appointment as Guyana’s next Chancellor. In fact, the Attorney General said he was not part of the committee but was only informed of the selection.Guyanese-born Belize Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin“I think the President had set out a process, a transparent process and he had appointed three exceptional luminaries and they would have dealt with that process,” Williams explained.However, there are reports that the former Guyana Defence Force Judge Advocate was not the top choice for the post, but somehow ended up being selected as the next candidate for the position.Pressed to state whether Benjamin was not the favoured candidate by the review committee, the Attorney General took offence by the media’s consistent questions. He said, “I am telling you that that process was conducted by a panel… I know the person identified was Justice Kennett Benjamin.”Sections of the media have reported that Benjamin was not ranked number one by the panel based on a points system that was used to shortlist the candidates. This system focused on experience, legal knowledge, management skills, suitability and approach to legal problem solving, among others.The Belize Bar Association had threatened to take steps for Justice Benjamin to be removed from office if he had failed to submit a large number of written decisions. But yet again Williams also brushed aside concerns about Justice Benjamin’s challenges in reducing the backlog of his written decisions.“There is no jurisdiction, certainly not Guyana, which is not beset by these issues of backlog of cases,” Williams said in Benjamin’s defence, noting that Guyana is yet to conclude more than 10,000 cases.Following a meeting with President Granger on January 3, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo asked for time to conduct background checks on Benjamin, before his team meets again with the President to consider the appointment of Chancellor on February 7.Sources close to the Opposition Leader have indicated that he is still conducting his due-diligence on the background of the President’s nominee and may be seeking further clarification on a number of matters.Granger had told a media conference that he already contacted the recommended individual who later accepted the nomination. Diligent work by the media revealed that the person the President favoured was Justice Benjamin, who currently serves as the Chief Justice of Belize.Jagdeo has already warned that even though the President has to make the first move to resolve the decade-long failure to appoint a substantive Chancellor and Chief Justice, he would not allow himself to be coerced into accepting nominees just to fix the situation.President Granger is now awaiting the Jagdeo’s approval for the appointment of Justice Benjamin.Article 127 (1) of the Constitution speaks to the appointment of the Chancellor and Chief Justice. It states that both the Chancellor and Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President, acting after obtaining the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition.Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) President, Sir Dennis Byron, speaking at a Guyana Bar Association event, had severely criticised the non-appointment of a substantive Chief Justice and Chancellor.Sir Dennis noted too that no substantive Chancellor has been appointed since Justice Desiree Bernard, Guyana’s first female Chancellor, demitted office and was appointed as the first female Judge of the CCJ.The acting Chancellor is Yonette Cummings-Edwards who has applied for the post of Chief Justice. Acting Chief Justice Roxane George has not applied for any of the two posts.last_img