… as Nagamootoo says list not limited to Judges only
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has pronounced that the list of nominees for a new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) submitted by the Opposition Leader for the Head of State’s consideration can be a mixture of qualified persons from various fields, and is not limited to Judges.
This, however, contradicts President David Granger’s reasoning when he rejected Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo’s list of mixed nominees.
Nagamootoo, who is a notable attorney, argued that the list of nominees must have at least one person who meets the constitutional requirement of being “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.”
“You have to get a mixture. You can have somebody who is a judge or some other proper persons, not necessarily someone who is qualified to be a judge,” the Prime Minister told media operatives during an interview following an event at Parliament Building on Friday.
According to Nagamootoo, though the Constitution provides for “other fit and proper persons”, the Opposition Leader could not ignore completely the requirement for a ‘judge-type’ candidate.
“When it says four times in one article of the Constitution that you must have a judge or someone who has been a judge or qualified to be a judge, then if you follow the Constitution faithfully, then you include a judge,” he asserted.
Jagdeo nominated Attorney and Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram; Executive Member of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ramesh Dookhoo; former PSC Chairman and Army Chief Norman Mc Lean; writer Rhyaan Shah; Professor James Rose; and human rights and conflict resolution consultant Lawrence Latchmansingh.
But President Granger declared that the entire list was “unacceptable” because none of the candidates met the constitutional requirement of being a judge or being eligible to be a judge.
From all indications, Granger wants all six persons to meet that constitutional requirement of being in possession of such legal qualifications.
Even Jagdeo appears unsure of what exactly the President is looking for in his list of nominees; hence, his request for a meeting with the Head of State to clarify the inconsistencies.
But using Nagamootoo’s logic, if at least one person must be a ‘judge-type’ in order to render the list valid, then it would appear likely that the President would appoint that one ‘judge-type’ person as the new GECOM Chairman, since the other “fit and proper” persons would be considered “unacceptable” as they were being labelled now.
LACK OF CLARITY
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, in an invited comment published in today’s Guyana Times, drew attention to the inconsistencies in the Prime Minister’s interpretation altogether and particularly, how it differed from the President’s understanding.
“So, even in the Government itself, there seems to be a woeful lack of clarity on what the constitutional provision requires and that is significant, and it should illustrate to the public that the Government itself is imploding in relation to what the Constitution means. The President says that all the persons must be of judge-like status and quality. The Prime Minister is saying at least one of them must be of that status or quality,” Nandlall highlighted.
He further argued that both the President and Prime Minister were wrong in their interpretations because the Constitution never stipulated a proportion of persons from each category to be nominated.
“In as much as they are trying to still overemphasise the judge-like qualifications, the persons contemplated by the Constitution who are not required to be judge-like must be treated with equal importance as the persons who are Judges, former Judges or are qualified to be Judges. The Constitution does not see one category of persons superior to the other, clearly two categories of persons are contemplated: Judges, former Judges or persons qualified to be Judges or a different set of people who are unlike Judges, but are fit and proper and they may come from various professional pursuits,” he explained.
Nandlall contended that the Opposition Leader was free to choose from either categories, since the Constitution does not mandate him to make the list a mixture of both, nor does it provide a ratio for choosing.
He argued too that the spirit in which the Constitution was reformed was to expand the list of nominees in order to move away from the restriction to just judge-like individuals.
Meanwhile, after rejecting Jagdeo’s first list, the President requested a second list of nominees.
Instead, Jagdeo requested a meeting with President Granger to discuss the different interpretations of the Constitution, since that seemed to be the root of the problem.
But Granger declined to meet with the Opposition Leader and proposed that Jagdeo submit a representative to meet with the Attorney General, Basil Williams.
Williams and his predecessor, Nandlall, are slated to meet to have a discussion on the matter, with the aim of reaching a consensus between both parties on what is required for the appointment of a new GECOM Chairman.
Nandlall had written to the Attorney General requesting an appropriate day for the engagement to take place. The last official word on the matter was that a date was yet to be set.
Jagdeo said he would consider submitting a second list, depending on the outcome of the meeting between the Attorney General and his representative.
“After that meeting, should I have to submit a new list, I would probably consult broadly again with people so that I can get the best names to go forward,” he stated.