.. says President’s criteria proving difficult to find nominees
Following several rounds of consultations, Civil Society groups have submitted several nominees for the Chairmanship post at the Guyana Elections Commissions (GECOM) to the Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharat Jagdeo.
This is according to Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, earlier today during a press conference with media operatives at the Office of the Opposition Leader.
She explained that during last week’s consultations, Civil Society bodies were given up to March 27, 2017, to submit the names of nominees that meet the requirements for the GECOM Chairman post, which was outlined by President David Granger.
Teixeira told reporters that some of the groups have made their submissions while others are having difficulties finding persons to fulfill the criteria that the President finds acceptable.
“We have received submissions from members of the body. There are some that asked for [extensions] and that they’d send it to us by today but we’ve got about 13 to 15 names so far…Not 15 individual names, 15 submissions but there are some civil society bodies who indicate that when they would have examined the criteria…they are having difficulties,” she explained.
The Opposition Chief Whip said that upon the receipt of the nominees, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) will compile a new list and resubmit it to the President within the coming days.
Nevertheless, Teixeria insisted that the criteria set by the President undermines the constitutional provisions and is making it extremely difficult to find nominees.
Last year, Jagdeo had submitted the list of nominees after extensive consultations with various stakeholders for the position of GECOM Chairman.
These names included 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.
However, in January, 2017 the President officially responded to the Leader of the Opposition, stating that the nominees submitted for consideration for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) were “unacceptable”.
Granger had 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.
But, 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 had 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.
Granger, who is a longstanding member of the People’s National Congress, had accepted the nomination to serve as GECOM Chairman several years ago.
Both sides have been very vocal on the issue, with the President stating that what obtained in the past was a mistake and the right way was now being chartered, while the Opposition posited that government could be looking to unilaterally appoint someone who would be beneficial to the APNU-AFC coalition, especially in the run up to 2020 elections.
However, the President’s interpretation of the constitution received more flack than those opposing it.
One such person who disagreed with his interpretation was the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) General Secretary Lincoln Lewis.
Lewis had 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 who recently retired from the post, leaving the seat vacant.
Nevertheless, a team was established to meet with the Attorney General, Basil Williams, SC, as it pertained to the interpretation of Article 161 (2) but both meetings proved to be unfruitful.
With no end to the stalemate in sight, Jagdeo agreed to provide the President with new list of nominees.
In a meeting with the Opposition Leader and the President it was decided that President Granger would outline the qualities that the nominees should possess so that no ambiguities would exist in the provision of the second list.
Just recently, businessman Marcel Gaskin (the brother of the Business Minister Dominic Gaskin, who is the son-in-law of the President) had moved to the High Court to challenge the constitutionality of Granger’s reasoning behind his rejection of Jagdeo’s list of six nominees for the post of GECOM Chair.
The case filed by the businessman comes up before acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire next week. The respondents are Attorney General Basil Williams and Opposition Leader Jagdeo. (Ramona Luthi)