President urges new Chancellor to lead judiciary reform process

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
May 5, 2001

GUYANA's first female Chancellor, Ms Desiree Bernard took office yesterday with President Bharrat Jagdeo urging her to lead the process of reform within the judiciary.

Also swearing in new Chief Justice, Mr Carl Singh, the President said that with the two new appointments, the judiciary was in "safe hands".

Ms Bernard and Mr Singh took their oath of office at the presidential complex with Mr Jagdeo declaring that he will stoutly defend the independence of the judiciary.

"I am sure that our judiciary is in safe hands and that Chancellor Bernard will lead the process of reform and changing the judiciary so that it responds to the needs of the people," President Jagdeo said.

"I am very, very concerned about our delays, the lack of judges and the lack of confidence that the public has in the judiciary," Chancellor Bernard told reporters minutes after she was sworn in.

She also noted that there was a terrible shortage of judges in Guyana.

Chief Justice Singh, who said he was honoured at the appointment, noted that the judiciary today was plagued with a number of problems.

He, however, said one has to understand the difficulties in which the judicial system functions at the moment.

He also said the timely delivery of justice must be on the front burner of the judicial system at all times.

Ms Bernard also said she was honoured to have been elevated to the post of Chancellor of the Judiciary, adding that she certainly did not think she would one day have become Chancellor when she started out in the profession many years ago.

Yesterday was another significant day for her in the sense that nine years ago on the same date, she was admitted as a Justice of Appeal, the Chancellor said.

Ms Bernard replaced retiring Chancellor Cecil Kennard.

At the ceremony, President Jagdeo said he was extremely pleased, privileged and honoured to have appointed the first woman Chief Justice and the first woman Chancellor of Guyana in Bernard.

According to him, Chancellor Bernard will be the first Chancellor to benefit from the extension of the term of office provided for in the new Constitution which allows for the Chancellor to serve up to age 68.

"I am sure that you will all wish to join me in congratulating Madam Justice Bernard and Justice Carl Singh on attaining the highest offices in the judiciary," President Jagdeo said.

He noted there was a need to make some changes and that with the Chancellor's leadership and support from Chief Justice Singh, the judiciary was in capable hands.

"On behalf of all Guyanese, I wish to congratulate you both and I know that our judiciary is in capable hands," the Head-of-State said.

A smiling Ms Bernard said one of the things that can be expected from her tenure as Chancellor will be her efforts to improve the services the judiciary is offering to the public.

Among those at the swearing-in were Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon and Senior Counsel Mr Ralph Ramkarran and Mr Ashton Chase. (MARK RAMOTAR)