INSERT OF LETTER WITH THE Press Conference on Wednesday, December 7, 2005 Hall of Heroes, Congress Place, Sophia
November 21, 2005
His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo
President of the Republic of Guyana
Office of the President
New Garden Street
On Thursday November 10, 2005, during my absence from the country, the High Court (Amendment) Bill 2005 was tabled in the National Assembly. I was quite surprised, because when I met with you on Tuesday November 1, 2005 at State House and raised, inter alia, the delayed consultations on the appointment of a Chancellor you did not consider it prudent as much as to inform me of your government’s intention to introduce such a Bill. This fact alone, which belies the claim to an interest in transparency, is sufficient to cause grave reservations on my part to support such a Bill. I returned to Guyana on Saturday November 19, 2005 and was advised subsequently that the Government intends to proceed with the second reading of this Bill on Thursday November 24.
Serious concerns about the purpose and implications of this Bill have been expressed by various sections of the society, including the Guyana Bar Association and there has been little opportunity for discussion among and consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
Further, it is my considered opinion, and that of Senior Counsel with whom I have consulted, that the Bill is in effect an attempt to alter the Constitution by interfering with the constitutional structure of the Supreme Court of Judicature (the High Court and the Court of Appeal) established by Articles 123 – 125 of the Constitution.
In such circumstances, to proceed with this Bill in the manner contemplated by the Government without the prior amendment to the relevant Articles of the Constitution will be unconstitutional. There are, however, matters equally as important as the Constitutionality of this Bill.
The introduction of this Bill, at a time, when you have delayed in excess of five months the consultations for the appointment of a Chancellor as required by the Constitution, raises serious questions about the motive behind the Bill and the functioning of the Judiciary, not least of which is its independence. This is particularly so since I am unaware that any concerns were ever raised by the Judiciary, the Guyana Bar Association or any other organization in Guyana about the functions as presently allocated by law to the Offices of Chief Justice and Chancellor respectively.
You may recall that on April 20, 2005 at our initial and only formal meeting on this matter I recommended Justice Claudette Singh as the most qualified person to fill the vacancy of Chancellor. My recommendation remains the same. This was because of her seniority, her long and competent judicial service, her experience and public confidence in her judicial decisions. When you identified your nominee, the incumbent Chief Justice, I brought to your attention certain matters of concern which for ethical reasons I have not made public. Among the matters I mentioned was the public perception that your nominee had a predisposition of leaning in favor of the State rather than ensuring the rights of citizens whenever the two interests were in conflict. The present Bill will certainly strengthen this perception.
The public perception, that these arrangements are being put in place to facilitate your nominee for the post of Chancellor holding on to major aspects of his old responsibility while being promoted to the new post because he is deemed as politically acceptable to your Party and government and likely to occupy that post for a long time because of his age, should come as no surprise to you.
This is rather unfortunate and it should be obvious that not only does this Bill do great disservice to and taint your nominee, but, also places me in a position where I may never be able to agree on his appointment as Chancellor.
The upholding of the Rule of Law in Guyana is too important to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency and it is my hope that good judgment will prevail and the Bill be withdrawn.
Perhaps it may be a useful idea to postpone proceeding with this matter as planned on Thursday until you have had an opportunity to consider the matters that I have now brought to your attention.
Robert H. O. Corbin, MP
Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform &
Leader of the Opposition
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