Appointment of GECOM Chair: President’s letter to Opposition Leader misinterpreted CCJ’s instructions – legal analysts

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  • stress necessity for CCJ to issue timelines to hold elections

The suggestion by President David Granger that he be allowed to submit nominees for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman continues to befuddle legal minds, with two analysts questioning whether this is may be a ruse to further delay the election process.

During an appearance on the Globespan 24×7 live show in New York on Sunday, former Attorney General Anil Nandlall noted that the letter in which the suggestion was made, which was penned on Granger’s behalf by Director General Joseph Harmon, entirely misinterpreted what the Caribbean Court of justice (CCJ) had suggested.

“Mr Harmon is a lawyer of more than a dozen years standing. Mr Harmon cannot be seriously writing that kind of letter. Look at the paragraph he quoted, intending to use that paragraph to say that the CCJ said that the President is to submit names. That paragraph says no such thing!” Nandlall said.

Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall

“What the CCJ meant, they said look, it’s a consensual process that will have to produce these names. And, therefore, since the Opposition Leader cannot in isolation, submit names, the CCJ suggested a more sensible approach is to engage, and in the engagement, names can float informally from the President. We are big, intelligent people!”

The former Attorney General pointed out that the role of the Opposition Leader in submitting names for the President to consider was never in any question. But he noted that suddenly, the President and his team have raised this as a new red herring.

Nandlall’s fellow guest, former Speaker of the House and Senior Counsel, Ralph Ramkarran questioned whether the President’s suggestion was intended to frustrate the process. He noted that both the CCJ and the Constitution are quite clear about the need for dialogue between the President and Opposition Leader.

Former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran

“I think they’re trying to delay. This is another effort to delay the process. And that is why it is vital for the CCJ to set a timeframe [for the appointment of Chairman, elections]. President Granger does not have an equal status as the Opposition Leader, under the Article.”

“Article 161 of the Constitution is quite clear when you read it. It has been misinterpreted by the President. The CCJ has pronounced on it. It is again misinterpreted by the President. The President wants his own way. He wants his own interpretation. And the objective of this is stubbornness, and for the purpose of creating delay,” Ramkarran said.

The letter in question was written by Harmon, who based his reasoning for suggesting the President nominate a GECOM Chairman on the CCJ’s request that the two sides meet and discuss eligible candidates. Harmon also suggested Jagdeo consider this before a date for his meeting with the President is set.