GECOM Chair: President’s interpretations now invalid in face of court ruling-Jagdeo

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– Chief Justice delivers written ruling 

Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire has handed down a written ruling in the months long debacle surrounding the appointment of a Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and has in the process essentially thrown out the public pronouncements and interpretations held by Head of State, David Granger.

Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire

The written ruling was handed down on Tuesday last by the Chief Justice which was subsequently welcomed in part by the Peoples Progressive Party, when opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo weighed in on the matter.

The Chief Justice has essentially ruled that when rejecting names nominated by the Opposition Leader, the President  must provide reasons for each person’s rejection and that all of the names submitted by the Opposition leader do not have to fall in the category of Judges.

The Chief Justice, in ruling on whether the list of persons nominated by the Opposition leader must include a judge, a former judge of a person qualified to be a judge, found the answer to be in the negative.

Addressing media operatives at his Church Street Office on Wednesday, Jagdeo made clear that based on the ruling of the Chief Justice, the person nominated by him “does not have to be in any of these categories, judges, former judges or persons qualified to be appointed judges.”

On the question of whether the President is required under the Constitution to supply reasons as to whether the names have been rejected, Jagdeo in pointing to the ruling observed that the Chief Justice found the answer to be in the positive, “yes he has to give reasons.”

Speaking to whether the President is obligated to select a person from the six names supplied, the Chief Justice ruled in the negative, noting he does not have to.

Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

According to the Opposition Leader, she did note however, that if the President found some persons on the list of six as unacceptable, it does not absolve the entire list from consideration. Ruling contrary to the President’s publicly stated belief that each of the six names supplied must meet with the criteria he had set out.

The Opposition leader reminded that President Granger publicly stated that “I have to find all six acceptable before I even consider the list.”

“So even if the president finds individuals who are unacceptable to the list it does not render the entire list unacceptable,” Jadgeo said.

He summed up that “the nominees from the Opposition leader do not have to include the persons from the category that the President has indicated to the public that he wants them from, secondly that the President should give reasons for rejecting individuals, he has declined to give reasons and thirdly, if he finds one or two individuals on the list as unacceptable it does not make the entire list unacceptable.”

The former President did indicate to media operatives that there was one ruling addressed tangentially by the Chief Justice for which the Peoples Progressive Party could very well appeal in future since it will have implications for future appointments.

He was speaking to the ruling by the Chief Justice which essentially says that if the persons on the first list aren’t found to be acceptable then the President can go ahead and appoint a person from the category he identified, namely judges, former judges or person eligible to be appointed a judge.

In the Chief Justice’s ruling, it was pointed out that her interpretation in this case was simply academic since, there have already been requests on the part of the President for subsequent lists.

Jagdeo has already submitted three lists, the latest still under consideration by the President and according to the Opposition leader; he is yet to receive any communication with regards to a decision being made.

He suggested that should the ruling stand, the President can in future request a single list and if none were found acceptable he would go right ahead and appoint someone unilaterally.

“I believe personally that, that is a bit worrisome, that interpretation for the future,” said Jagdeo.

President David Granger

As such, he indicated that the party will be discussing further with its lawyers “to see whether we will join others in challenging that interpretation that there should be one list.”

The former president in giving his take on the matter reminded that the balance that was sought by then US President, Jimmy Carter when President Desmond Hoyte agreed to free and fair elections was an acceptable voters list and an elections machinery (GECOM) that was balanced and fair.

According to Jagdeo, under the current interpretation the PPP would have had every right to reject any submissions by Desmond Hoyte for the selection of a GECOM Chairman and unilaterally make an appointment.

He said the PPP does not however, share the view that this was the intent of the Constitutional provision “and we never exercised it in that manner.”

In light of the written ruling handed by the Chief Justice, Jagdeo did indicate, “I am hoping that the President (David Granger) reads this carefully and that his advisors will now guide him accordingly…I hope that he understands now that the interpretation that he had, that all of the of persons had to be acceptable to him before he even contemplates choosing someone, that interpretation is now untenable (invalid) in the face of a ruling from the Chief Justice.”

The former President did express some optimism that the ruling by the Chief Justice will bring about some sense of conclusion to the month’s long debacle stemming from the President’s interpretation of his role in the appointment of a GECOM Chairperson.

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