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Oct 22, 1998

Musa and Barrow give views on judicial appointments

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Earlier this week the Leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow sent a letter to the Prime Minister objecting to Said Musa’s proposal to revoke several appointments Barrow had made to the judiciary just days before the General Election. The Prime Minister, who was himself Leader of the Opposition at the time of the appointments, has previously stated that he was not properly consulted about the appointments of the new Chief Justice, Justice of Appeal and Adjunct Justice of Appeal. Today News Five spoke with both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition United Democratic Party about their stances on the issue.

Dean Barrow, Leader, Opposition

“I wanted to leave the judiciary in a better state than I found it and the imminent departure of Mr. Horace Young opened the door to all sorts of possibilities. I particularly felt that it would be a good thing to have somebody like Manuel Sosa confirmed as Chief Justice. In my view he is the best judge around the place and one of the best judges locally, we could ever hope to find. But I am prepared to acknowledge it is a legitimate point of view to suggest that this ought not to have been done just in front of the elections. However, having accepted that, the question is, was it constitutional? And it is very, very clear when you read the Constitution that it was.

The other point is as a practical matter, what’s the beef? Mr. Sosa is recognized pretty much by all sundry, certainly in the legal community as one of the best legal minds in this country. He’s known to be absolutely fair, to be absolutely impartial: he will not take sides. There can be no question of gratitude on his part for having been appointed. This is an appointment that he deserved and this was an appointment in my view that the interests of the country of the judiciary of the profession required. So what really is the practically difficulty? We have, we ended up with a Chief Justice who is above reproach. And I therefore can’t understand why there is all this hue and cry.”

Said Musa, Prime Minister

“Well it seems very clear that Mr. Barrow sees this as an issue in which he believes he can make some political mileage but we are treating it with the seriousness that it deserves. The whole question, as I said, what we have to ensure is that the people understand first of all what is the issues at state. And I believe they do. The issue clearly is that the Constitution was violated when these appointments were made.

This is no reflection on the competence or otherwise of the people involved. I’m not even suggesting that they had any part in the matter. We are saying the wrong doing was carried out by the executive at the time: the government, the Prime Minster and the Attorney General. They did not follow the Constitution. We as a government that is sworn to carry out and uphold the Constitution, we have an obligation to carry out this review and to take the appropriate steps as we may be advised. And we will do so in accordance with the Constitution and in accordance with the rule of law. We are not going to take any precipitate action that is not founded on strict Constitutional law and principle.”

Dean Barrow

“I am reluctant to guess at the motives behind what now has become tantamount to a declaration of war against the Chief Justice so I will content myself in saying that it really then is a senseless war. It really is extremely harmful to the interests of the judiciary and it ought to be discontinued.

The Governor General has no power to revoke an appointment, no where in the Constitution. There is a procedure for the making of these appointments. No where in the Constitution is there a making of a procedure for the revocation by the Governor General of these appointments.

Furthermore the government gets itself into serious trouble. The government’s contention is that there was not the requisite consultation with which I strongly disagree. The government goes on to say then as a result the appointment is a nullity. How are you going to ask the Governor General to revoke what you are contending is a nullity? In any case for the Governor General to agree with you he must make a determination on this claim, that there was no consultation. He must make a determination on this claim of unconstitutionality but that is a matter for the courts. I dare the government to find me one case in the Caribbean where in these sorts of circumstances a Governor General has propertied to revoke a judicial appointment; they can find none.”

Q: “Mr. Prime Minster is there a precedent for what you are trying to get done?

Said Musa

“I can tell you this, that in the position that I hold now, I am not acting as an attorney. The government is seeking full and proper legal advice on this matter. I am sure that the relevant people, the attorney who are reviewing this matter, will be seeking and researching this matter very properly, so I wouldn’t want to indicate one way or the other. I know there have been several cases in the commonwealth with situations arising of this nature, but a particular precedent exactly on this point, I can’t at this time say.”

Prime Minister Musa says the government has not asked the Governor General to revoke the appointments, but that Sir Colville Young is being kept abreast of the situation.

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