President David Granger has today officially responded to Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, stating that the nominees submitted for consideration for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were “unacceptable”.
“The President urged that a new list of persons who are not unacceptable be sent for his consideration,” Jagdeo said in a statement issued earlier today.
During a media brunch held at State House on Sunday, President Granger justified his decision to refuse the list of nominees submitted by Jagdeo, stating that Guyana’s Constitution asserts that a current or sitting judge or someone eligible to be a judge in Guyana or the Commonwealth Caribbean is preferred to be appointed as Chairman of the electoral body.
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 for the post: “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” and the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) would explore its available options including moving to the Courts to challenge the president’s decision.
Nandlall pointed out that in 2000, Granger himself, accepted the position as a nominee for the position of GECOM Chairman.
The PPP members have been very vocal on the issue, stating that the government could be looking to appoint someone who would be beneficial to the APNU-AFC coalition, especially in the upcoming 2020 elections.
Additionally, former government minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy had criticised the president’s decision on the issue.
“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.
Moreover, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) General Secretary Lincoln Lewis also 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.
The list of nominees submitted by Jagdeo after extensive consultations with various stakeholders include: Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Lawrence Lachmansingh; Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram; businesswoman and former broadcast executive, Rhyaan Shah; Retired Major General, Norman Mc Lean; Business Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo and History Professor, James Rose.
Meanwhile, Jagdeo is expected to respond to the President’s request on Tuesday. (Ramona Luthi)