…says his selection by Hoyte as nominee in 2000 was a ‘Constitutional breach’
Following the President’s rejection of the list of nominees for the post of new Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had formally written to President David Granger seeking clarity on what he (the president) interprets the qualifications are of the persons to whom Article 161(2) of the Constitution refers.
As such the President has responded saying that Government will provide the legal clarification that Jagdeo has requested, while noting that he is committed to fulfilling the Constitutional requirement within the ambit of the law.
According to the President he is not interested in playing politics, but he is serious about following the Constitution in regards to selecting a suitable Chairman for GECOM.
“I am in the business of satisfying the Constitutional requirement for the position…we are looking at everything within a legal framework, not within the framework of politics, not within the framework of personalities” he said.
When questioned with the reality that he [Granger], even though not a Senior Counsel or Judge, was once a nominee for the position of GECOM chairman in 2000 by then President Desmond Hoyte, Granger responded “that any breaches that may have occurred in the past must not be allowed to persist.”
“So the point is, even if the Constitution had been breached, or a nomination been made in breach of the Constitution, 10 or 20 years ago, there is no need to repeat it so that’s not a precedent. I am accepting now as President that the Constitutional provisions must be applied,” the Head of State said.
Yesterday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, in a press statement, stated that he believes “the President is laying the foundation for the unilateral appointment of a Chairman of GECOM of his own choosing”.
Jagdeo noted that such an appointment will not only be unconstitutional but will compromise the integrity of the electoral machinery tasked with conducting free, fair and transparent elections in Guyana.
“President Granger is the first President who has ever rejected a list submitted by a Leader of the Opposition. This is not without significance. We think that this is the beginning of an elaborate plan to rig the next elections. We feel that the President is laying the foundation for the unilateral appointment of a Chairman of GECOM of his own choosing”, the statement noted.
On Monday, Granger wrote Jagdeo, indicating to him that the nominees he (Jagdeo) submitted for consideration for the post of Chairman of GECOM were “unacceptable” and asked that a second list be submitted for his consideration.
Additionally, 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 Article 161 (2) of 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.
However, 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”.
Incumbent Attorney General Basil Williams had also highlighted that the the Constitution does allow for “any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons…” identified after meaningful consultation. He said however, that the determination of the what is ‘fit and proper’ lies at the discretion of the Head of State and that every person submitted on the list presented by the Leader of the Opposition should meet that requirement.
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.
According to Williams “all six persons are required to be acceptable to the President. Therefore, if you bring in three of those persons, [who] are not in the range, you are actually reducing the options of the President. So it is beholden on the Leader of the Opposition to always provide a list of six acceptable persons or as they say six persons not unacceptable to the President.
“He is the decision maker. The President is doing nothing wrong. In fact he has invited the Leader of the Opposition to send another list and he can do that several times until the Leader of the Opposition gets it right and he has to get it right, failing which the President will be forced to make an appointment. Of course at all material times he acts in his own deliberate judgement. So it’s entirely the President’s judgement,” the Attorney General had said.
While the President says he will respond to the letter issued by Jagdeo seeking clarification, he did not indicate whether a meeting would be facilitated between himself and Jadgeo.
Apart form the clarifications, Jagdeo had said “I am of the considered view that an urgent meeting will immeasurably assist in reconciling any differences of opinion which may exist on this issue.”