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Georgetown, Guyana
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
‘Constitutional compliance’ needed on GECOM Chair appointment before moving forward- Opposition Leader

‘Constitutional compliance’ needed on GECOM Chair appointment before moving forward- Opposition Leader

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…says issue has nothing to do with race

Amid calls to have the issue relating to the appointment of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) addressed with Constitutional reform, Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo strongly feels that there is need to have strong compliance with the current Constitution now.

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Addressing members of the media on Wednesday, Jagdeo said the idea being pitched around by supporters of the incumbent Administration is that the issue could be fixed later, because the unilateral appointment of a GECOM Chairman is a “done deal” and does not have any bearing.

“We need constitutional compliance now and I mentioned they are not very gun hoe on constitutional changes, but this is a convenient way to move us away from this issue to promise a new formula in the Constitution,” Jagdeo said.

The former Head of State reminded that the Carter Formula has worked for over 25 years and both parties had agreed with it. He also noted that the current formula is enshrined in the Constitution, and therefore there is need for constitutional compliance to take place now.

“We can change the system in the future but until we do that (David) Granger and the others have to act in accordance with our Constitution,” he asserted.

Asked whether he was prepared to submit a fourth list to the President, the Opposition Leader said he would have done so if the President had agreed to comply with the court’s ruling.

“I would have done it but this time he had to comply with the ruling of the Chief Justice (CJ). He would have had to give reasons to reject the names on the list,” he explained.

Chief Justice Roxane George ruled that the President is not obliged to select a person from the six names on the list unless he has determined that the persons are unacceptable as fit and proper for the appointment and that he cannot deem the entire list unacceptable if one or more nominees are not fit and proper.

Jagdeo maintained that the President acted in bad faith. He again accused the Head of State of being “untrustworthy”, pointing out that the move is unconstitutional in which he acted in defiance of a judgement.

Justice (retired) James Patterson signs the Oath, which accords him the powers and authority as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)

“He renounced 25 years of common understanding and history between our parties and they are trying to polarise this country once again along the lines of race when this issue has nothing to do with this,” the Opposition Leader stated.

Jagdeo reminded that the issue has nothing to do with race, noting that while some people wanted to create an impression that his list did not contain any person of Afro-Guyanese background, that idea is false and from reality. “I have seen a flurry of activities delegated in the public media to distorting the fact surrounding the matter of the appointment of Chairman of GECOM,” he added.

The People’s Progressive Party has already filed High Court proceedings to quash the appointment of Justice James Patterson as GECOM Chairman because he was not picked from among the 18 nominees and that he appears to be closely linked to the People’s National Congress Reform, the largest partner in the governing coalition.

Civil society, the business community and trade unions have come out in strong opposition and have slammed the decision taken by President Granger. The Private Sector Commission has since condemned the decision as “dangerous” and a threat to democracy.

The United States (US) has also issued a call for Guyana’s High Court to swiftly settle the ongoing controversy over the appointment of the new GECOM Chairman.

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