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…but urges swift appointment of substantive Chancellor, CJ
President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Justice Adrian Saunders, said though Guyana has made significant advancements in its judicial system, it is disappointing that for close to two decades the country has been without a substantive Chancellor of the Judiciary.
“There is one significant blot on an otherwise impressive Guyanese legal and judicial landscape. For the country to have not appointed a Chancellor for 17 long years is very disappointing; likewise, to be without an appointed Chief Justice for several years,” Justice Saunders said.
At the time, he was delivering the keynote address at the 40th Bar Association Dinner held recently.
The CCJ President said 2022 should not pass without there being the substantive appointments of the Chancellor and the Chief Justice.
Guyana has not had a substantive Chancellor since 2005. Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards has been the acting Chancellor since 2017. She took over from Justice Carl Singh, who had acted from 2005-2017. Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire has also been acting as Chief Justice since 2017.
“Attention must be placed on ensuring that the system of judicial appointments and promotions is highly competitive, transparent and merit based and that ongoing, relevant and systematic judicial education is available for judges and magistrates. Now more than ever, Guyana’s judiciary must be and be seen to be impartial, independent, competent, efficient and effective. The judiciary must also be accountable to the people of Guyana,” the CCJ President admonished.
That aside, the CCJ President said Guyana is among a few states in the Region with a hybrid legal system, and the most advanced Constitution in the Anglophone Caribbean. According to him, the Constitution clearly outlines the fundamental Principles and Bases undergirding the political economic and social order.
“It is the only CARICOM Constitution expressly to pay regard to international instruments to which the country has acceded and the only one that goes out of its way to pay specific and due regard to the aspirations of young people and, importantly, to the status of women,” the CCJ President pointed out.
He said while many CARICOM countries have commissioned Constitution Reform exercises, Guyana is one of the few states where such an exercise was carried right through to a successful conclusion in 2001.
“So, yes, we are proud to be of service to Guyana; a country that wasted no time acceding to the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction as a commendable demonstration of faith in the region’s ability to establish a court and produce judges that are equal to the task,” Justice Saunders said.
He noted that in the past, the rules of the Court did not encourage modern effective case and case-flow management, however, he said to day, the country has a dynamic, responsive and innovative judicial system.
“The length of time the cases that reach us have been in the system has grown considerably shorter. So far as I can tell, the judgments are being delivered in a far more timely fashion. Many cases are disposed of via mediation as they should be,” the CCJ President pointed out.
Reference was also made to the establishment of a Sexual Offences Court and Juvenile and Drug Treatment Courts and the introduction of new civil procedure rules, which were introduced under Acting Chancellor Carl Singh.
The use of modern Information and Communication Technology (ICJ) in the execution of its mandate as the judiciary was also applauded.
“It is a fact that over the last ten or so years we have been witnessing a series of steady reforms in the administration of justice of this country. The trajectory is certainly trending in an excellent direction,” Justice Saunders said while noting that the reforms would only result in increased support from regional and international partners.