Guyana
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Norton on judicial appointments

Dear Editor,
On its Facebook page, and on an Office of the Leader of the Opposition letterhead, the APNU/AFC proudly displayed a letter under the hand of Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who wrote on behalf of Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton to the Honourable Gail Teixeira to indicate that Mr. Norton wished that she be advised that he “is in agreement that Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire be appointed Chancellor and Chief Justice respectively”.
Senior Counsel Forde correctly referred to the appropriate Article of the Constitution which governs such appointments, but Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde has done a terrible disservice to the dignity to which he was only recently elevated. Many members of the junior bar would have recognised his blunder and would have refused to lend their names to such a precipitate bungle.
Assuming Senior Counsel Forde had received instructions from Norton to write the letter referred to, he should have asked Aubrey Norton whether the President had proposed or advised him that he wished to appoint these two judges to the positions mentioned. And it was for Senior Counsel Forde to tell Norton that it is only after such Presidential advice that he is at liberty to express his agreement, or otherwise, with the President’s proposal.
Unless I am in the dark, I am not aware that the President had proposed these judges for appointment to the offices of Chancellor and Chief Justice.
Forde wrote in his letter that “the Leader of the Opposition is in agreement that these Judges be appointed”. Referring to Forde’s letter, Norton, at a press conference, noted: “In this regard, the Leader of the Opposition has fulfilled his constitutional responsibility, since all that was needed is an agreement, and I have agreed”. Norton himself said, “As I understand it, an agreement is arrived at between two persons who reach a common position on, for example, a dispute or an objective of one sort or another.” One dictionary meaning given to the word ‘agreement’ is “a negotiated and typically legally binding arrangement between parties as to a course of action”. Another is “harmony or accordance in opinion”.
In the absence of a Presidential intimation to Norton on the issue of judicial appointments, the question is: Who is Norton in agreement with? Certainly, Norton cannot be in agreement with himself, for that is not the Constitutional prescription. For Norton to say that by his precipitate expression of agreement on these judicial appointments he has fulfilled his constitutional responsibility, this is an enormous blunder on his part. It is such uninformed, ill-advised misinterpretations of the Constitution that cause Norton to make more of the office he holds in a now well-recognised, arrogant, threatening, bombastic way.
Aubrey Norton is precipitate. If, by his erroneous remarks and by the letter he has presumably asked Roysdale Forde to write on his behalf, he wishes to force the hand of the President on judicial appointments, my considered view is that if he was good at psychoanalysis (and Norton obviously is not), he would recognise that President Ali is not one to yield to subterfuge.
Aubrey Norton has clearly misunderstood a very clearly expressed Article 127(1) of the Constitution and the sequence of procedures therein outlined. His anxiety to indicate his agreement on judicial appointments is undoubtedly troubling to the people of Guyana, and as GHK Lall would say, “It disturbs, and is not at all encouraging.”

Sincerely,
Selwyn Persaud