Below is a commentary by Dr Leslie Ramsammy on the President’s criteria, that he outlined via a letter to Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jagdeo, for the GECOM Chairmanship position:
David Granger has now formally declared in writing that he is abrogating the constitutional provision (Article 161) that the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must be appointed by the President from a list of persons who meet one of three qualifications: a person who is or was a judge, a person qualified to be a judge or a person who is considered because of other qualifications to be fit and proper to serve as the GECOM Chair. In effect, by his letter to the Leader of the Opposition, Granger has signed an Executive Order suspending a part of the constitution. For me this is Executive Lawlessness and PRESIDENTIAL MALFEASANCE.
In addition to effectively suspending article 161, Granger has also essentially re-inserted a provision previously deleted more than 20 years ago in 1995 by a unanimous vote of Parliament. The deleted provision in the 1980 constitution provided that the only person qualified to be the Chair of the elections commission was a person who is or was a judge or a person eligible to be a judge. In his letter to the Leader of the Opposition this past week, Granger essentially imposed this deleted provision of the Constitution, in effect, declaring he is disavowing the 1995 Constitutional amendment of article 161.
Under an agreement in 1991 brokered by former US President, Jimmy Carter, it was agreed to extend the pool of persons who could be considered qualified by the addition of a third category of qualifications. This was formalized by a Constitutional Amendment in 1995 by a Parliamentary vote in which every member voted in favor. Desmond Hoyte voted to make this change. While Granger was not a Parliamentarian at the time, Nagamootoo, his Prime Minister now, and Dr Rupert Roopnarine, his Minister of Education, were and they voted for this change.
Since 1991, using this constitutional provision, more than 90% of the persons nominated to serve as the Chair of GECOM have been persons who satisfied the third category of qualifications. David Granger himself was twice nominated in this category. Moreover, ALL of the appointed Chair of GECOM since 1991 have come from this category. Until now, no one ever asserted the asinine idea that the constitution prefers only a judge.
No law or any amendment of the Constitution can be made by the President by himself and in his own deliberate judgment. Only Parliament can make laws. The constitution cannot be changed, except by Parliament or by a National Referendum. David Granger is acting recklessly and unlawfully when he decides that he prefers a disavowed law to the actual law. He is committing PRESIDENTIAL MALFEASANCE. He is effectively discarding the constitution approved by the parliament for one created by an Executive Order.
I am encouraged that a private citizen, who happens to be the brother of Granger’s son-in-law, an APNU+AFC Minister, has decided to challenge in court this irresponsible behavior of the President. The Leader of the Opposition had previously recommended to the President that the government and the opposition jointly approach the CCJ to provide guidance on the constitutional requirement for persons eligible to be the GECOM Chair. One wonders why Granger and APNU+AFC are afraid to accept this recommendation.
For Granger, presumably on the advice of Basil Williams, his Attorney General, to insist that the GECOM Chair must be a Judge is offensive. If this is what the stakeholders meant or intended, then why did they agree to a new formula which was implemented in 1990 and which was statutorized in the constitution by a unanimous vote in 1995? I was present at the meeting with Jimmy Carter when the intention was agreed to. Cheddi Jagan, Gail Teixeira and Rupert Roopnarine were there too. There was no ambiguity. It was never intended then or in any way suggested that a Judge or someone who could be a Judge was a preferred person. For anyone to read the 1995 constitutional requirement as a preference for a Judge only is absolute hypocrisy and sheer stupidity and wilful abrogation of the constitution.
The truth is APNU+AFC has already decided who they want to be the Chair of GECOM. It is part of a broad strategy to rig the 2020 elections. This obfuscation is setting the stage to reject the second list from Bharat Jagdeo. Even if the Leader of the Opposition nominates six judges, they all will be rejected and Granger will appoint the Chair in his own deliberate judgment. But in so doing he will be acting as a dictator, in total contravention of the Constitution. By insisting that the nominees must be a judge or someone who could be a judge, Granger is imposing his own law. He is guilty of PRESIDENTIAL MALFEASANCE.
When anyone disrespects and disobeys the constitution, a nation’s democracy is threatened. When that someone is the President, the country is doomed. We must as a people resist this confounded nonsense.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy