President David Granger said he was anxiously awaiting dialogue between the Government and the Opposition, which has been scheduled for next week, before determining the next step forward in appointing a new chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The Opposition’s legal adviser, Anil Nandlall and the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Senior Counsel Basil Williams are expected to meet shortly to discuss the interpretation of the laws governing the appointment of a new GECOM Chairman.
Minister Williams, who is currently in Trinidad, told the Ministry of the Presidency on Wednesday in an invited comment that former Attorney General Nandlall had written to him in January asking that the meeting be organised any time after January 25. However, given that he was in Jamaica at this time, AG Williams said he had undertaken to set a date next week for the meeting to happen.
Meanwhile, President Granger told reporters on Wednesday at State House that having realised that the issue arose out of two different interpretation of the Constitution, he did not see the rationale to have further dialogue with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and as such, has left the matter in the hands of the legal experts from the two sides.
“I think (Jagdeo) has nominated the previous Attorney General and I’ve nominated the current Attorney General and I have asked them to meet and see in what ways we can have a common interpretation of the Constitution. In the final analysis, it’s a constitutional matter and I felt that the Constitution was quite clear so if there was any opaqueness or obscurity, I hope that the meeting between the two Attorneys would clarify that,” he noted.
Nevertheless, the Head of State maintained that he was correct in his interpretation of the Constitution that the nominees for GECOM chairmanship must be a judge or have qualifications equivalent to that of a judge.
“I’m anxious to move ahead, it’s a constitutional office, but as I said my interpretation of the Constitution was quite clear. I’m not saying that the person has to be a judge, but if you read the whole article of that Constitution, it intends that the person must possess certain qualities and we are looking for those qualities,” the President asserted.
The controversy on the matter revolves around the different interpretations of the Opposition Leader and the Government on Article 161 (2) on the appointment of a new GECOM Chairman.
The Opposition’s understanding conforms to the updated Constitution which incorporates the Carter formula to have a democratic process for the appointment of a chairman.
Granger’s interpretation, on the other hand, seems to reflect the old 1980 Constitution which limits the pool of persons to be appointed to GECOM’s helm to only judges or those eligible to be a judge.