Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ failure to appoint a new chief justice demonstrates his “lack of respect” and appreciation for governance, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday.
“He doesn’t appreciate [and] he doesn’t understand what his role is as the prime minister of this country,” Davis said.
“It requires him to act and not act on his own time, but act in a manner that conventions and protocols dictate. He has to show respect for the other arms of government. By responding in that way it shows his lack of respect and his lack of appreciation for governance.”
Last August, Chief Justice Stephen Isaacs died after serving in the position for two weeks.
He acted as chief justice for several months after former Chief Justice Sir Hartman Longley was appointed Court of Appeal president in December 2017.
The prime minister has yet to choose a new chief justice.
Davis said the prime minister has not displayed an understanding or appreciation for the importance of each arm of government having a substantive head.
“The executive has its head in him,” he said.
“The legislative has its head in the speaker, and the judiciary needs its head as the chief justice.
“This deadline and unwarranted and unexplained delay in appointing a chief justice does not augur well for the administration of justice.
“It leaves everyone in uncertainty.”
Speaking at the Opening of the Legal Year on Wednesday, Acting Chief Justice Vera Watkins said the uncertainty of her post made it difficult to set an agenda for the year.
“The indisputable fact is that while it may be so that I am sitting in this chair at this moment, I am not certain as to whether I will be sitting in this chair later on today,” Watkins said.
She said this left her in a “tenuous position”.
Davis said the uncertainty of Watkins’ post meant the administration was unable to address the “issues that impact our citizenry”.
“It is the judiciary that the citizenry have to look to for its protection and to ensure that the rule of law is always carried out,” he said.
“We all are subjected to the rule of law. To whom do we turn to ensure that the rule of law is being followed? The courts. In the absence of it being properly populated by their officers, what do you expect? Chaos [and] uncertainty.”
He said the uncertainty may hinder the ability of “exposed persons” to get “the rights that they are entitled to or may be entitled to through the courts”.
Last April, when pressed about the issue of the chief justice, Minnis said, “The only thing I plan on doing right now is going home and do my stew fish.”
Earlier this week, he told The Tribune that the country will know in “very short order” who has been appointed to the position.
“There are names that have been moving through my head, but I have not moved them yet from my head to any paper,” the prime minister said.
“I don’t want to give timelines. The press holds me very seriously to timelines. So no timelines right now, but you will know in very short order.”
Education: Goldsmith, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice