The hearing into the unilateral appointment of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman began with lawyers arguing that President David Granger must explain his reasons for rejecting the three lists of nominees, lest he be seen as abusing his discretionary powers.
This argument was put forward by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, who appeared on behalf of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
According to Mendes, retired Justice James Patterson’s appointment was not only a departure from tradition, but also a department from procedure.
Mendes pointed out that previous Chairmen were appointed from lists put forward by the Opposition Leader.
He noted that on the face of it, Jagdeo generally submitted eligible candidates to the President and thus, their rejection by the Head–of-State requires an explanation.
Mendes said that in the absence of a reason from the President for rejecting the lists, one can assume there is none and the decision is therefore arbitrary.
Queen’s Counsel Ralph Thorne, who made an appearance on behalf of Attorney General Basil Williams, had a rough time before the CCJ Justices.
This was as he tried to argue that the court ought not to intervene in the constitutional appointment of Patterson as GECOM Chair.
Meanwhile, Thorne’s partner, Queen’s Counsel Hal Gallop insisted that the President’s discretionary powers are only reviewable if it was used illegally, irrationally and outside of the constitutional proviso.
But he noted that in absence of this, the President’s discretion should be unrestrained.
However, the court questioned whether the President did indeed follow the proviso.
When Gallop replied affirmatively, the court questioned how then the Opposition Leader could be deemed to have failed in his duty to supply a list, which was one such proviso.
In total, the Opposition Leader had submitted three lists of nominees, totaling 18 nominees –all of whom were rejected by Granger, without explanation.
The CCJ is expected to announce a date for their ruling in the matter shortly.