Burt hits out over new Chief Justice

  • The new Chief Justice of Bermuda, Narinder Hargun (File photograph)

    The new Chief Justice of Bermuda, Narinder Hargun (File photograph)

The appointment of Narinder Hargun as successor to Chief Justice Ian Kawaley is “an affront” to the Government, the Premier said last night.

David Burt said the Government did not support the appointment and that he had told the Governor, John Rankin, during the consultation process.

Mr Burt added: “The Governor did consult with me and I shared with him that this government could not support the recommendation of the Judicial and Legal Services Committee.

“We were elected to represent the people of Bermuda and to bring meaningful change to this country.

“The views we express are founded in the convincing mandate to govern which was given to us by an overwhelming majority of the people.

“Every Bermudian should be concerned that this mandate can be ignored and discarded by a process that cannot be moulded to reflect their will through the existing consultative process.”

The Government was asked last night for the reasons behind its objection to Mr Hargun’s appointment, but no response was received by the time of press.

Mr Burt was speaking after Mr Rankin announced yesterday that Mr Hargun will take over as Chief Justice on July 14.

The Governor highlighted Mr Hargun’s qualifications and experience in the courts.

Mr Rankin said: “Mr Hargun is a highly regarded lawyer both within Bermuda and internationally.

“He has over 35 years of professional legal experience, appearing as counsel in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council, and serving as an Assistant Justice of the Supreme Court since 2011.

“I am confident that his legal expertise and management experience in the legal profession will serve the Supreme Court well, helping to maintain the island’s standing as a legal jurisdiction of the highest order”.

Mr Burt said: “Bermudians must feel that fairness, equity and above all justice can be found in all our courts.

“After 50 years of this constitutionally sanctioned disrespect, this is the latest example of this modern era of democracy being frustrated by the application of standards from the last century.”

The Premier added: “It is now for the new Chief Justice to discharge the duties of the office fairly and justly, and in so doing he will have this Government’s support.”

Mr Hargun served as counsel for the 2016 Commission of Inquiry, which was set up to examine allegations of mishandling of the public purse under the Progressive Labour Party.

Derrick Burgess, a former public works minister and still a Progressive Labour Party MP, accused Mr Hargun of racism for his line of questioning about Government contracts during the inquiry.

Mr Burgess accused Mr Hargun of “racist practices” and suggested a line of questioning about the involvement of Vincent Hollinsid and Winters Burgess in LLC — the contractor for the Dame Lois Browne Evans courts and police building — was because of their colour.

Mr Burgess said: “If they were white, you wouldn’t even hear those questions to me.”

He told Mr Hargun: “I know you are from South Africa, you know.”

Mr Hargun, a director of global law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman and head of litigation in its Bermuda office, is understood to be from India.

Jeanne Atherden, the Leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, welcomed the appointment of Mr Hargun.

Ms Atherden said: “Mr Hargun is one of Bermuda’s pre-eminent jurists and brings a wealth of litigation and judicial experience to the post.

“I am disappointed by the openly political opposition of the Premier to the appointment of such a respected and qualified Bermudian member of the Bar. Mr Hargun was appointed following a thorough, transparent and public competition run by the committee, which comprises a number of notable Bermudians and prominent international legal minds.”

Ms Atherden added: “ For the Premier to make this a political football is irresponsible to the extreme. A mature democracy is governed by the separation of powers and the rule of law. An independent judiciary is key to upholding these important values.

“Attacks such as the Premier’s are aimed at having a chilling effect. Thankfully, our judiciary is robust and will continue to take decisions without fear or favour — no matter who forms the Government.

“I wish Mr Hargun the best as he takes up this critically important position.”

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Published Apr 26, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 26, 2018 at 9:57 am)

Burt hits out over new Chief Justice

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