Granger rejects Jagdeo’s nominees for GECOM Chairmanship

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…stakeholders disagree with President’s rationale, warn of attempts to rig

President David Granger has rejected the nominees for the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), in a move that has already been described as dangerous.  This is the first time that a president has rejected such a list since the Carter Formula for the appointment of the GECOM Chairman was initiated in 1992.
The President argued that the Constitution of Guyana stipulates that the six nominees who were to be submitted by the Leader of the Opposition should be a judge or possess qualifications of a judge.
On this basis, he declared that the six names submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo were “unacceptable”.
“So, the only thing about the list is that it comprises six names,” Granger told a gathering of media operatives at the State’s Annual Media Brunch on Sunday.
Jagdeo nominated Executive Member of the Private Sector Commission Ramesh Dookhoo; former PSC Chairman and Army Chief Norman Mc Lean; Chartered Accountant and former Head of the Bar Association, Christopher Ram; writer Rhyaan Shah; Professor James Rose and human rights and conflict resolution consultant Lawrence Latchmansingh.

FIT and PROPER

Indeed, Article 161 of the Constitution of Guyana outlines that the nominees must be a judge or have the qualifications of a judge.
But it also states that the nominee can be any person deemed “fit and proper”.
“The Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly,” the extract reads.
Legal luminary Anil Nandlall, who also served in the capacity of Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs under the previous Administration, explained that the Constitution clearly contemplates two categories of persons.
“Firstly, a High Court judge or an Appellate Court judge, a former High Court or an Appellate Court judge or a person qualified to be a High Court or an Appellate Court judge. Secondly, or (disjunctive), any “fit and proper” person. However, from whichever category the persons come, they must be acceptable to the President,” Nandlall said in a statement to the media shortly after the President’s announcement.

In this regard, he contended that the President’s rejection of the names on the grounds that the persons did not meet the constitutional requirements was “wholly untenable”.

PREVIOUS CHAIRMEN

Notably, the majority of the previous Chairmen of GECOM fell under category two as outlined in the Constitution of Guyana – being “fit and proper”.
In fact, of all the persons who were appointed as Chairman of GECOM, only the late Doodnauth Singh, former Attorney General and Senior Counsel, satisfied the category of being a judge or having the requisite qualifications to be one.
All the other persons – Rudy Collins, Edward Hopkinson, Joseph Singh and Dr Steve Surujbally – lacked legal qualifications and, therefore, would have all qualified under the “fit and proper” requirement.
Interestingly, in 1997, former Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte nominated Granger to be GECOM’s Chairman, though he did not have the qualifications to be a judge.
Granger had accepted the nomination knowing fully that the Constitution caters for “fit and proper” persons outside of that category.
His new interpretation of the Constitution is, therefore, baffling and inconsistent with what is presumed to be his outlook when he had accepted the nomination to be GECOM Chairman.

RIG

Nandlall believes that the President’s announcement is a signal of the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition’s intention to rig the next General and Regional Elections in 2020.
“The President is playing a dangerous game… I believe these machinations will continue until the President conjures up an interpretation of the Constitution which permits him to unilaterally appoint a Chairman of GECOM,” he expressed.

COUP

Former Government Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy said the President’s rejection was an attempt to seize power through a coup.
“Their latest move to reject the nominees for the chairmanship of GECOM from the Leader of the Opposition is setting the stage to name a Chairman in their own deliberate judgment, a person that will carry out instructions from APNU/AFC, in the same sinister fashion as Judge Harry Bollers did prior to 1992,” Dr Ramsammy warned.

NEXT MOVE
The President did not indicate what his next move would be, but it is understood that he is yet to formally inform the Opposition Leader of his dissatisfaction with the list of nominees.
The Opposition Leader may have to return to the drawing board and submit another list of six nominees or the President can go ahead and appoint a person who holds or has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge – providing that the Opposition Leader fails to submit the list as provided for.

GTUC
Additionally, Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) General Secretary Lincoln Lewis disagreed with President Granger’s assertion.
In a statement to the media on Sunday, Lewis highlighted that the Constitution indeed provides for suitable persons outside the realm of judges or those qualified to be judges to be appointed as GECOM Chairman.
He also alluded to the appointments of past Chairmen of GECOM, including Dr Surujbally. (Guyana Times)

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