…says past appointments constitutional
Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC) and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan is adamant that the previous appointments of Chairmen of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were very much constitutional, a position that was previously rejected by President David Granger.
Ramjattan, addressing Journalists at his party’s first bi-weekly press conference for 2017, was taking a dab at the current fiasco between Government and the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) over the nomination of a new chairman for the elections body. While the party said it supports the position the Head of State has taken on the matter, Ramjattan when questioned said previous appointments of Chairmen were within the confines of the Constitution.
“Those were very much constitutional and if I might tell you this, it was very fortuitous or fortunate that the then President and Opposition Leader managed to find favour with a name in the first list.”
He said, however, that while it was fortunate in the past that both the serving President and the Opposition Leader were in agreement with the list provided , it does not mean President Granger has to accept one of the names from the first six provided.
President Granger last Wednesday said that he was moving to put an end to the breach of the Constitution, which saw persons without the qualifications of a Judge being appointed to the position of GECOM Chair. He said regardless of what obtained in the past, as current President of Guyana, it is his responsibility to ensure that the provisions of the Constitution will be followed.
He was at the time responding to Guyana Times when asked about his acceptance of a nomination for the GECOM chairmanship in 2000 by then Opposition Leader Hugh Desmond Hoyte without having the necessary qualifications of a Judge as required under the Constitution.
“My understanding is that at all material times, a member of the legal profession or several members of the legal profession were on the list, but my acceptance of the nomination or my name being on the list does not necessarily mean that I must accept the six names which are submitted. So it doesn’t follow the law of what you would call the ‘non-sequitur’ (a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement). The point is, even if the Constitution had been breached or if a nomination had been made in breach of the Constitution 10 or 20 years ago, there is no need to repeat it. That is not a precedent, I don’t accept that. I’m accepting now, as President, that the Constitution provisions must be applied,” the President stated.
“This is a constitutional matter and I’ve cited the Constitution to (Jagdeo). I’m not playing politics, I’m serious about the appointment of Chairman of GECOM and the Constitution is very clear. Mr Jagdeo did write to me and he asked for some clarification,” the Head of State said.
He added, “Well, as I said it has now gone into the legal zone and we are going to ensure that he gets the legal clarification that he needs, but in terms of names, I’m not in the business of naming names at this stage. I’m in the business of satisfying the constitutional requirement for the appointment so that is as much as I can say at this stage. The law will prevail and we will continue to engage the Leader of the Opposition as required under the Constitution. So I’ve not disengaged (him), I’ve examined his letter and a response will be sent.”
In response to the President’s rejection of his first list of nominees and his consequent request for a second one, Jagdeo, last Tuesday, wrote the Head of State requesting an urgent meeting, while asking that he elucidate his interpretation of Article 161 of the Constitution of Guyana, which deals with the requirements of the nominees to be submitted by the Opposition Leader.
The six nominees submitted by the Opposition Leader in December last year were retired Major General Norman McLean; Attorney and Political Analyst, Christopher Ram; former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo; Peace and Governance Consultant, Lawrence Lachmansingh; businesswoman, Rhyaan Shah; and Professor James Rose, none of whom President Granger noted have the qualifications of a Judge as required by the law.
The Head of State had outlined that the Constitution requires only persons who are Judges, qualified to be Judges, or former Judges of either a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court.
However, Jagdeo pointed out that his interpretation of the Constitution is that the requirements go beyond the qualifications of a Judge.
Jagdeo meanwhile believes that President David Granger is playing politics with the matter and therefore announced his intention to have the issue resolved at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). He said if both parties were unable to resolve their differences regarding the interpretation of the Constitution, he will propose that both the Opposition and the Government approach the CCJ together seeking a resolution.
If Government is unwilling to take this route, then he is prepared to take the matter to the CCJ alone, he said. (Guyana Times)