GECOM Chair: President infers 2nd list had only 1 suitable person

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…disagrees with suggestion of appointing foreign national to the post

President David Granger has ruled out appointing a foreign national to the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), describing that development as undesirable and impossible.

President David Granger (right) and Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo at a previous engagement

Speaking during this week’s airing of the Public Interest, Granger also sought to excuse his rejection of two lists of nominees for the GECOM Chair submitted to him by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

“The Constitution requires the Leader of the Opposition to give me a list of six persons who are not unacceptable,” Granger said. “And if he gives me a list with five or four or three, it would be a breach of the Constitution.

The danger is that some names — and I’m not going to name any names — may appear on the list (but they) do not conform to the criteria, and it narrows my choice. I have to have six names from which to choose. If five are unqualified, I have no choice. He (Jagdeo) drives me into picking one person, and I need to have a choice of six.”

Asked about a timeline in light of the approaching elections in 2020, Granger was adamant that this issue can be settled “in a week.” He repeated his contention that the two lists were not consistent with the Constitution.

The President’s inflexibility comes even though the second list included two retired judges and three attorneys-at-law.

The Opposition has long argued that the Constitution is on its side, and that the interpretation of the constitutional provision in regard to the appointment of a GECOM Chairman had been settled by the People’s National Congress (PNC), with the then party leader Desmond Hoyte, SC, even submitting Granger’s name twice for the top GECOM position.

“My criterion has not been challenged,” Granger said. “When the second list came, there were names that did not conform to the criteria. I hope the third list conforms to the criteria. I’m not going to choose from one person.”

Almost five months and two lists later, Jagdeo had suggested to the President that there be an amendment to the Constitution to allows for foreign nationals to be nominated to the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission. Jagdeo had said that this was one of the propositions he had made to the President when he met with him recently to discuss a way forward on the GECOM matter and to resolve the impasse.

The former Head of State said, “Why not let us jointly amend that part of the Constitution, where we can submit now (names of foreign nationals for the post of GECOM Chair)? We can search around the world, so my list now can show people from around the world; some of the best people from around the world, so that is one of my suggestions.”

Jagdeo said Granger had not agreed with this suggestion, and had suggested as a counter-proposal that a search committee be established that could possibly comprise six respected individuals; three from each side.

But Jagdeo argued that this would only enable the President to pick one of the nominees instead, which according to him is a direct violation of the Constitution.

Jagdeo, in April last, had submitted to President Granger a second batch of six nominees for the post of Chairman of GECOM. They were retired Justice of Appeal BS Roy; retired Justice William Ramlall; former Magistrate Oneidge Walrond-Allicock; Attorneys Kashir Khan and Nadia Sagar; and businessman Captain Gerald Gouveia.

The Opposition Leader had posited with respect to the second list of nominees that “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.”

This second list suffered the same fate as the first, with Granger deeming it “unacceptable” in in keeping with his criteria and interpretation of Guyana’s Constitution.

Meanwhile, GECOM has been without a Chairman since February 28, 2017, when Dr Steve Surujbally stepped down after 15 years at the helm.

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