If it is that head of State, David Granger, cannot from a list of 18 persons select one to head the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), then perhaps he is not a ‘fit and proper’ person to make the selection, since many of the persons already identified are technically even more competent than him and several of his Cabinet Ministers.
Former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo made the scathing observation on Wednesday when he addressed members of the local media corps and expressed his dissatisfaction over the recent statements made by President Granger.
He said, “if our President cannot find from18 persons, 18 persons who are all professionals, who have some standing in society, who have demonstrated independent positions and actions, who are impartial, (if) he cannot find a single person—most of them are more technically qualified than the President himself and most of his ministers—can’t find a single of 18 fit and proper, then something is wrong not with those people anymore or the process, something is wrong with him, and maybe he is not fit and proper to make the selection.”
It is now five weeks since Jagdeo submitted his third list of nominees for the post, but so far, there has been no definitive word from the President’s Office as to when he would go ahead and make the appointment.
“The Honourable Chief Justice has published an opinion and I have been studying that opinion and looking at the decisions that I have to make,” President Granger told media operatives on Wednesday while noting that her opinion does not interfere with his rights.
“It was quite clear that among everything she has written, she has not interfered with the President’s rights guaranteed by the Constitution to select a person ‘fit and proper’ and I think that in that regard, I will continue to do what the Constitution guarantees me to do- which is to select someone fit and proper,” he posited.
Moreover, the President noted his intention to meet with the Opposition Leader “next week if he is available” with regards to the matter.
Despite the President indicating that he wanted to meet with the Opposition leader following the written ruling issued by the Chief Justice, the Opposition leader told reporters, “nobody said anything about the ruling interfering with his authority to appoint a fit and proper person.”
Jagdeo was adamant that the President has an obligation to not only respect but to apply the contents of the ruling in his decision to appoint a GECOM chairman with regards the list submitted.
The Opposition Leader in criticizing the positions adopted by the President questioned how long will the charade be upheld in face of the High court ruling.
Jagdeo also questioned the need for another meeting that the President is calling for, but nevertheless indicated his willingness to attend.
He told media operatives that he is respectful of the office of the President and as such will meet and given the deviation from previous communications regarding the rejection of previous lists, his fingers are crossed that this time around the meeting would be to inform him of a decision taken.
Thus far, Jagdeo has submitted three lists of six names each to the President, for one person to be selected as the new Chairman of GECOM. However, the first and second lists have been rejected by the President.
The President had maintained that Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana prescribes for the Chairman of the Elections Commission to be “a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court…or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person…”
As such, businessman Marcel Gaskin had moved to the court to seek clarity on the constitutional requirement for the appointment of a GECOM Chairperson.
Recently, acting Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire ruled against President Granger’s interpretation of the Constitution for the appointment of a GECOM chairperson, saying that there was no preference for judicial persons.
The third list of names submitted for consideration include: Major General (Rtd) Joseph Singh, Teni Housty, Sanjeev Datadin, Ms Annette Arjoon-Martins, Onesi La Fleur and Krishnadatt Persaud.