The local business community has begun joining forces in their denunciation of the unilateral appointment of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)—saying the move will no doubt add to the slowdown of the economy and further loss of investors’ confidence in Guyana.
This latest salvo against Head of State, David Granger was fired by Deodat Indar, the head of the Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) who at the beginning of the business week publicly registered the Chambers’ disappointment in the actions taken by the President.
“The Chamber views the departure from established protocols agreed to by both parties in the Carter/Price formulae and the provisions enshrined in our Constitution under article 161 (2) for the appointment of the Chairman as unfortunate.”
According to Indar “the current political dilemma will only add and deepen the division in Guyana and will negatively affect our fledgling democracy.”
The Georgetown chapter of the business community’s umbrella organization was joined by The Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce which strongly condemned “the blatant disregard for the constitutional process in the unilateral appointment” of the GECOM Chairman.
The Berbice headquartered organization stated bluntly “we are convinced that this is what the President and his advisers wanted to do all along, ever since the first list was submitted and he rejected names like Christopher Ram and Lawrence Latchmansingh.”
The Chambers questioned “how else can one explain why a practice for twenty five years was thrown through the windows and the President even rejected a man (Major General Ret’d Joe Singh) who was proposed by the then PNC when in Opposition.”
That body has since joined with its Georgetown based counterpart to say the actions of the President “will do immense damage to our fledgling democracy.”
The Private Sector Commission had called President Granger’s appointment of appointing Justice (rtd) Patterson as a ‘dangerous’ development.
According to the Corentyne Chambers, “instead of trying to build a country, people will once again be consumed by ‘Rigged Elections’ as the suspicions and fears of the ‘rigging machines’ of the old PNC comes to life.”
Meanwhile, the Chambers also used the occasions to single out coalition partner the Alliance for Change (AFC) to share “a great deal of blame for this state of affairs.”
Speaking to its official position and defense of the President’s actions, the Chambers said the AFC’s “statement on a ‘looming constitutional crisis’ has been nothing but pathetic.”
The AFC while claiming to not be involved in the decision making process of unilaterally selecting a GECOM Chairman, had subsequently issued a statement in support of President Granger saying that the action had averted a looming constitutional crisis.
The Corentyne Chambers—home to a large section of the AFC’s support base—said “they should be ashamed of themselves as they were the ones who helped to create this crisis in the first place by their cowardly attitude in not demanding their partner abide with a practice which served the people for 25 years.”
The Chambers accused the party of having forgotten “that many of them ( especially Ramjattan and Nagamootoo), fought for decades for free and fair elections including this very matter, which they are now loosely and casually compromising themselves to support.”
The Corentyne association was adamant; the AFC leadership through its complicity “are presiding over the final rites of their party and is so doing has doomed us to the two major parties for the foreseeable future.”
The Chambers used the occasion too to recognize that by the President’s own definition Justice Patterson is clearly not fit and proper; “No experience in electoral matters, he is a religious leader, and to crown it all, Patterson is an adviser to the Attorney General, an employee of the Government.”
The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) on Monday also lamented that the current political impasse and uncertainty that has been created is unhealthy.
President of the GMSA Shyam Nokta also publicly declared that the actions of the President in the unilateral appointment “could threaten our fledgling democracy and could have adverse impacts on economic activities.”
According to Nokta the GMSA was hopeful that the appointment of the Chairman of GECOM would have continued in an open and transparent manner.
“In accordance with the Constitution and practice, and leading to the successful candidate receiving the support of both the Government and Opposition, and by extension the entire nation, as has been the case for the last 25 years…This did not happen.”
President Granger on Thursday last met with Opposition Leader Jagdeo and informed him that the third list of nominees for the post GECOM Chairman was unacceptable and that Justice (rtd) Patterson would be appointed.
The President formally rejected this list on Thursday and immediately swore in Justice (rtd) Patterson who was himself notified only hours earlier.