GECOM Chair: Opposition Leader submits 6 new names

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Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharat Jagdeo

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday, submitted his second list of six names for the appointment of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman to President David Granger.

The nominees were identified as  Justice of Appeal B.S Roy (ret’d),   Justice William Ramlall (ret’d), Ms. Oneidge Walrond-Allicock, Attorney-at-law and a former Magistrate,   Kashir Khan, Attorney-at-law,  Ms. Nadia Sagar, Attorney-at-law, and Gerald Gouveia.

According to Jagdeo “it will be observed, that in respect of the names which I submitted to the President, one(1) is a former Judge of the Court of Appeal of Guyana; one(1) is a former Judge of the High Court of Guyana; three(3) are Attorneys-at-law with over ten(10) years of good standing at the Guyana Bar and one(1) is a former Magistrate and therefore, qualify to be Judges of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in Guyana, in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana; and one(1) is a former Captain of the Guyana Defence Force, a Pilot, and a Businessman and Entrepreneur.”

Jagdeo noted that arriving at the six new candidates proved to be quite a challenge, more so with regard to the antecedents in relation to this matter.

“I embarked upon an elaborate and protracted public and private consultative process which lasted several weeks, during which I solicited the views of, and sought nominations from, many nationally renowned persons and various important stakeholders’ and representative organizations, in my efforts to ensure that I present six (6) names to the President who satisfy the requirements contemplated by Article 161(2) of the Constitution,” said Jagdeo in a statement.

The Opposition Leader also expressed commendations to  the organisations and persons who participated in the second round of consultations. “In particular, I wish to thank the Hon. Madam Justice Desiree Bernard, Madam Justice Claudette Singh (ret’d) SC, Mr. Ralph Ramcharan SC, Timothy Jonas and Ronald Burchsmith, Attorneys-at-law, and others with whom I consulted but who indicated that their current commitments do not permit them to serve in the office of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, at this point of time” he said.

Last year,  Jagdeo had submitted his first 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 were “unacceptable”.

Granger had justified his decision to refuse the list of nominees submitted by Jagdeo, stating that Guyana’s Constitution (Article 161 (2)) 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 had said in a statement to the media shortly after the President’s announcement.

Dr Steve Surujbally who recently retired from the position of Chairman, leaving the seat vacant after serving 12 years, was a veterinarian by profession.

Moreover, President 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.

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 a new list of nominees.

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