…Opposition Leader still awaiting meeting with President
As the back and forth continues regarding the appointment of a chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has threatened to move to the Court for an interpretation of the Constitutional requirements for the post.
At a press conference on Thursday evening, Jagdeo said he is still awaiting word from President David Granger on a suggested meeting to discuss the matter. He said should the meeting be held, he would suggest that both parties approach the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which is headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago, for an interpretation of the legislation as it relates to the appointment of a chairperson for the electoral body.
The Opposition Leader said he was still eager to meet with the President to discuss the matter, more particularly to get an understanding of his interpretation of the Constitutional requirements for the post.
“I need from the President, clarity about why they did not seem to confer. Is it because what he said at the media brunch? Which implied that he was going with the old Constitution; or is there any other reason why these names do not seem to confer, because these are six imminently qualified people,” he told media operatives today.
The Opposition Leader warned should the President move ahead and appoint someone else other than the six names that have been already submitted, his party would move to the court.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, President Granger said that regardless of what obtained in the past, as current President of Guyana, it is his responsibility to ensure that the provisions of the Constitution be followed.
He was at the time responding to a Guyana Times reporter 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.
Following the receipt of a letter from Jagdeo seeking clarification on his interpretation of the Constitution’s requirements for the nominees of GECOM chairmanship, President Granger said he has already responded to the Opposition Leader and will continue to engage him on the matter.
The Head of State further posited that the issue is now being looked at within a legal framework, not within the framework of politics or personalities.
“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.
In response to the President’s rejection of his first list of nominees and his consequent request for a second one, Jagdeo on 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 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 has 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. “I am obliged to inform Your Excellency that my interpretation of Article 161(2) is different, in so far as, it also provides for, in addition to the category of persons to whom you have referred, “or any other fit and proper person,” Jagdeo penned in his January 10, 2017 letter to the President.