GECOM Chair: Transparency Institute speaks out against President’s unilaterally appointment

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…says Constitution catering for unilateral appointment should be changed

Local transparency watchdog, Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) has said that the time has come for a new formula to be crafted for the appointment of a Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) chairperson, something they believe should have been done long before now.

President David Granger swearing in Justice (Retd) James Patterson to the post of GECOM Chairman

Speaking about the highly contentious issue, the organisation said in a statement on Monday that this call has existed for many years since the formula was first applied and replaced. The TIGI reminded that the formula was agreed for single use only and noted that it now requires all parties to work together.

However, the TIGI did not spare the Government from the heavy criticism it continues to get on the unilateral appointment of Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM.

The organisation believes President David Granger should justify his rejection of the nominees in the three lists submitted by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and give reasons for his decision. TIGI said, “It is not a progressive step for Guyana both with respect to democratic principles and accountability, and it has created a precedent that will be convenient when it is and inconvenient when it is not.”

But it also feels that the Leader of the Opposition has not helped democracy either by “selecting some persons who would have been clearly unacceptable to the President.” TIGI said by so doing, he would also have engendered a substantial amount of distrust about any of the persons he submitted.

Despite this, the organisation firmly stated that there should be no room for unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chair. However, while acknowledging that the Constitution caters for this, the TIGI said it is unfortunate and it is something that should be changed. They believe when there is a disagreement over the unilateral appointment of a GECOM Chair recourse to the court ought to be sought.

“The decision by the President to proceed with his particular interpretation of the Constitution opens his decision to the charge that he has rejected a list or lists in order to make a unilateral appointment,” the statement added, noting that having no explanation sets a dangerous precedent.

The Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had filed an injunction in the High Court to rescind the appointment on the grounds of unconstitutionality. The injunction is seeking a declaration that Justice Patterson is not qualified to be appointed in provision with Article 161-2 of the Constitution of Guyana.

The injunction is also seeking an order to have the appointment of Justice Patterson as Chairman of GECOM quashed and directing the President to choose a person from the 18 names submitted to him.

The matter will be heard before the Chief Justice on Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 13:15h.

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