BELIZE CITY, Fri. Feb. 9, 2018– A report out of the South American country of Guyana has indicated that Kenneth Benjamin, the Chief Justice of Belize, will be appointed as Chancellor of the Judiciary in Guyana, despite the objection of the Opposition leader in that country, who is of the view that a more suitable candidate should fill that important post.
Benjamin, who is a citizen of Guyana, is also a naturalized citizen of the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, where he once served as chief magistrate.
Guyana’s president, David Granger, reportedly will go ahead with two judicial appointments — that of Chancellor of the Judiciary, and Chief Justice, Demerawaves.com reported, yesterday, February 8, although the Opposition leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, has constitutionally rejected both candidates, the report said. The president has tapped Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards for the Chief Justice post.
The Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, said Guyana’s constitution provides for meaningful consultation between the president and the Opposition leader.
“There is a constitutional position which we’ll look at and if in fact, there is no agreement for them to be appointed in the substantive position, then, as I said, there is constitutional provision for them to be appointed otherwise,” Harmon said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News.
It is not clear if the two persons whom the Guyana president has picked for the appointments will be appointed to the substantive posts, or if they will be hired in an acting capacity.
“Mr. Jagdeo’s rejection is constitutional and the president’s powers are also constitutional and there is a provision in the law which provides that, in event there cannot be agreement then there is a second level which now requires meaningful consultation, so I believe that that is the next step where we will have to go to,” Harmon added.
Chief Justice Benjamin has been head of the Belize judiciary since 2011, and recently spearheaded the criminal justice procedure rules which are geared to tackle the court’s massive backlog of cases and to prevent the system getting clogged up in the future.
Chief Justice Benjamin, however, also recently ran into problems with the Belize Bar Association over a number of cases for which he has been late in delivering judgments. The Bar has taken him to task for the tardiness of delivering his judgments and has even threatened to seek his removal from office for misconduct.
When information first began to emerge that Chief Justice Benjamin had been selected for a top judicial appointment in his country (Guyana), Belize’s Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, indicated that the government had not received any notice from the Chief Justice that he would be leaving his post.