The office of Chief Justice became vacant on April 28, 2010. Since that date the duties of that office have been performed by an acting Chief Justice. In the interim Government took steps to fill the post by going as far as making legislative changes to the qualification requirements, on March 20th at 12:35 a.m. in order to accommodate their preferred candidate. It appeared that the Government was moving with all deliberate speed to fill the vacancy as though there was some deadline that they had to meet. However, with all the fancy manoeuvring the post remains vacant.
It is as though no one in the Administration realises that this state of affairs holds Barbados up to ridicule internationally. Government should never allow a situation where an acting judge would be at the mercy of the Executive for a permanent appointment for such a prolonged period, before a substantive appointment is made. Just imagine a situation where a plaintiff has a case against the government before an acting judge. The judge should never be in a position where he has at the back of his mind any conflict about giving a judgement, against the Government, and not finally getting the permanent appointment. In this case, Barbados is fortunate and should be grateful that all the persons who are acting in this present debacle are of the highest calibre. The quality of the actors notwithstanding this situation is untenable.
Government is doing this country a disservice of the highest order by not filling the vacancy after one year, even though, they have identified a candidate and apparently passed the relevant amendments to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, so that their preferred candidate could be appointed. That procedure reeks and I hope that the delay is as a result of Government coming to its senses. The question that must be on the minds of all right thinking Barbadians should be, what is the reason for the delay?
Notwithstanding the embarrassing state of the Judiciary and if he foregoing was not bad enough: there is another consideration that must be taken into account. Section 13 (11) of the Public Service Act states:
No established office in the Public service shall be allowed to remain vacant for a period of more than one year except
(a) permission to allow the vacancy is granted by the Governor-General on the advice of the Service Commission; or
(b) the office has been frozen by the Minister.
The country has not been informed of any action by the Governor-General or the Minister to allow this serious omission.
So far, Government has been able to blame all their shortcomings on the global recession. In this case that excuse is not available. They must come forward and tell the country their reasons, if any, for the delay in appointing the Chief Justice: or is this yet another example of Government ignoring the law when it suits them?