GECOM Chair: President’s unilateral act a “clear threat to democracy”- PSC

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…says decision will lead to economic instability

“The decision of the President to act unilaterally and independently of the submissions of the Leader of the Opposition poses a clear threat to democracy and will inevitably divide the nation and lead to economic instability.  It is a dangerous decision.”

Those were the scathing observations made by the Private Sector Commission (PSC) as it relates to President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of retired judge, Justice Patterson as the new Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) chairman.

President David Granger presents the Instrument of Appointment as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to Justice Patterson at State House

Granger following a meeting with the Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo to discuss the third list of nominees, revealed that he had found that list “unacceptable.”

Afterwards, the President unilaterally selected Patterson, who currently holds the mantel as the legal advisor to the Attorney General Basil Williams, to be the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission.

Patterson was also hand picked by the President to to serve as the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into the Camp Street prison-break and fire.

In totality, over a period of 10 months, the President rejected three lists comprising of 18 persons who were chosen by the Opposition Leader following consultations with the relevant stakeholders.

Following the meeting with the President, Jagdeo in a press briefing before the swearing in ceremony said that this was Government’s plan from the inception, highlighting his belief that their intention was to “frustrate” him into folding by rejecting his nominees.

However, Jagdeo explained that after he continued to provide names- list after list- Granger brought his “charade”  to an end and chose to appoint someone of his own choice.

According to Jagdeo, Granger has acted undemocratically and in defiance of the Court ruling by the acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire.

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

The Opposition leader posited that “it is our firm view that…the President has violated the letter and spirit of article 161 of the Constitution, which clearly provides for a process, which requires the Leader of the Opposition to submit six (6) names to the President from which the President is required to choose one (1). This unilateral unconstitutional appointment also destroys the vital balance contemplated by the Carter Formula, which mandates GECOM to consist of three commissioners representing the government and three commissioners representing the Opposition with a Chairman produced from a collaborative process between the Leader of the Opposition and the President.”

The President in his defence for making the unilateral appointment said “I have not dragged on the process. He [Jagdeo] has been the one who has brought three lists before me and all of the lists were flawed, all of the lists were unacceptable.”

The first list of nominees submitted to the President for the position of the new GECOM Chairman and rejected consisted of Former Army Chief, Norman Mc Lean, Attorney and Chartered accountant, Christopher Ram, Former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo, Peace and Governance Consultant, Lawrence Lachmansingh, Businesswoman, Rhyaan Shah and Professor Dr James Rose.

The second list – which was also rejected- consisted of 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 Captain Gerald Gouveia.

The most recent list of names- which was also rejected-included Major General (ret’d) Joseph Singh, Attorney-at-law  Teni Housty, Attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin, Mrs Annette Arjoon-Martins, Onesi La Fleur and Krishnadatt Persaud.

Asked why retired Major General Joe Singh was not chosen, seeing he is one of the nominees on the third list submitted by the Opposition Leader; given his extensive experience in this regard, having once served as GECOM Chairman; and given that he is said to be overly qualified for the position, Granger defended his decision by stating, “I am not prepared to discuss the individual qualities of the nominees.

“Taken as a whole, the list was unacceptable. That’s all I need to say in accordance with the Constitution… I do believe he (Justice Patterson) brings with him years (of experience) and brings impartiality and independence.”

According to PSC, it is rather unfortunate that an agreement on the appointment of the GECOM chair could not be garnered.

“The Private Sector Commission, throughout the entire process of exchange between the President and the Leader of the Opposition, had hoped that the appointment of the Chairman of GECOM would continue in an open and transparent manner and in accord with the requirements of the Constitution” the body said in a released statement.

Following Patterson’s unilateral appointment, the Opposition Leader said, “Government will not have our cooperation on any issue in this country until they start complying with the Constitution.”

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