Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Puzzled by chief justice furore

Published:Tuesday | February 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM


Amid all the furore over the announcement that the chief justice has been appointed in an acting role rather than given full tenure, I have some questions for which I would like some clarification from someone in the know.

If, as has been argued by some (including ICJ Justice Patrick Robinson and your columnist Gordon Robinson, himself a lawyer), an acting appointment may well be unconstitutional, was Justice Bryan Sykes aware at the time of his interview and subsequent offer that he would be appointed in an acting role?

If this was made known to him and he agreed to accept the appointment anyway, this raises questions about his understanding of the constitutional clause related to the appointment of a chief justice, whether the issue is as clear-cut as is being argued, or whether there was some other perspective that made him feel it was in the country's or judiciary's best interest that there be a chief justice in place as quickly as possible, even in an untidy situation.

If he was not so informed beforehand, but the announcement made AFTER he had accepted, this raises questions about the withholding of important information from him - in which case he should have withdrawn his acceptance.

It just does not seem to me that Justice Sykes can be portrayed simply as an innocent victim of bad advice to the prime minister or misunderstanding of how far his authority goes, on the part of the prime minister. The offer of an acting role should have been excellent opportunity for the soon-to-be chief justice to provide a better interpretation of the Constitution. The chief justice, more than anyone else, should know the law!

This may all just be an innocent, unfortunate cock-up, but as of now, I am of the view that something is missing in the puzzle.