I am shaking in anger, livid, boiling with outrage. President David Granger tonight (Thursday) abandoning all disguises and assuming his dictator role, absolutely committed constitutional malpractice and malfeasance. As the majority of Hindus in Guyana celebrated Diwali, David Granger, like a thief in the night, without any warning appointed and sworn in the new GECOM Chair. The new GECOM Chair, James Patterson, is 84 years old, a former High Court Judge and a pastor. He is also a serving advisor to the Attorney General, Basil Williams and served as the Chairman of a Granger-appointed COI.
President Granger’s appointment of James Patterson was an egregious breach of the constitution. The GECOM Chair by law is not an arbitrary appointment and nothing in the constitution permits the President to make an appointment of the GECOM Chairman in his own deliberate judgment. When Granger made his appointment, he could not have done so as Guyana’s President. He did so as a Dictator. For anyone to accept this appointment when it clearly abrogated both the legal requirements and the spirit of the constitution raises the question of whether he or she can be trusted. Mr. Patterson was a Judge and he has to know that the President is guilty of constitutional malpractice.
That Joe Harmon and Basil Williams and others from the People’s National Congress would support Granger in this act of constitutional malpractice is not shocking. They have never changed their stripes – their DNA is that of Burnham and the PNC, steep in dictatorship. For Roopnarine, Nagamootoo, Ramjattan and others from the WPA and the AFC, supporting Granger on this issue is confirmation that they have cooperated with and have been co-opted into the band of dictatorship. They dishonor the legacies of Cheddi Jagan and Walter Rodney and the blood of so many others that fought for freedom and democracy in Guyana. For the ABC countries which were not shy to give their opinions before May 2015, their silence now proves their acquiescence with dictatorship and rigged elections in Guyana.
The Leader of the Opposition in an extensive exercise of consultations with the broad political and civil society named eighteen distinguished Guyanese citizens in three lists. They were professionals, some of whom were high court judges, lawyers, business people, former Chief of Staff and Head of the Army, a former GECOM Chair, etc. David Granger deemed all of them not “fit and proper”.
What is special about James Patterson that he is “fit and proper” and none of the 18 distinguished Guyanese were not “fit and proper”? Nine of the 18 persons were lawyers, all of whom had extensive legal practices. Four persons were judges in the High Court, with extensive experience. At least 4 of them served as senior officers in the army, one of whom was a former Head of the Army, served also as a Chairman of GECOM and also served in various public service roles under at least 6 Presidents. One person has extensive knowledge of GECOM, having served as an election observer and worked with the UN in an independent role for all elections since 1992. He has more knowledge of the election process and GECOM than Mr. Patterson by far. As far as I am aware, only two have previous political activities, one for the PPP and the other for the WPA, now part of APNU.
Having made “fit and proper” THE CRITERION, Granger owes it to the nation to tell these distinguished Guyanese and all of us why they were not “fit and proper”. In naming Mr. Patterson, a person not on any of the lists, he deems Mr. Patterson as more qualify and as “fit and proper” that none of the others were. He, therefore, must justify his pick, tell the people what special characteristics Mr. Patterson has that made him qualify to serve as GECOM Chair that none of the others had.
Because Mr. Patterson was appointed by Granger and his APNU+AFC Cabinet to serve in various roles, including as a Chair of a Presidential COI and as an advisor to the Attorney General, it appears that Mr. Patterson has more political affiliation (with APNU+AFC) than any one of the 18 candidates on the lists submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Patterson is 84 years old. I am not one for whom age is a consideration for public service, even at the highest level. I did not consider the Jagans in their 70s as too old to serve as President. Neither did I consider Bharat Jagdeo in his 20s and in his early 30s as too young to serve as a Minister of Finance or as the President of Guyana. Ashton Chase was in his 20s when he served as the Minister of Labor. Carolyn Rodrigues was in her 20s when she served as Minister of Amerindian Affairs. Age in no way is a consideration for “fit and proper”.
But David Granger made age a qualifying factor in judging who is “fit and proper” to serve in the public service or in a constitutionally-mandated position. In Granger’s own words and from his own mouth, Prem Persaud and Cecil Kennard were dismissed from their constitutional appointments as Head of the PUC and the Police Complaints Authority because they were too old to serve. Mr. Patterson is older than both those distinguished Guyanese who were deemed not “fit and proper” to serve because of their age. Like Patterson, both Kennard and Persaud were high court judges. Both of them served as judges in the Appeals Court and Kennard was a Chancellor of the Judiciary. So what makes Patterson “fit and proper” when Granger himself has told Guyanese that age matters?
Outside of the age concern, he also showed that some of the “fit and proper” qualifications that he himself outlined appear to disqualify Patterson also. In a June 3 Kaieteur News article, it is reported that Granger outlined various characteristics that he considers qualify a person as “fit and proper”. Among those is this gem: The person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious etc.). Mr. Patterson is a practicing pastor which makes him a religious activist. Again, for me, this is not an important factor in rendering a person “fit and proper. The person’s religion or even if he is a religious leader, a pastor, a pandit, a moulvi does not matter. But it is Granger who made it a requirement. Why is Mr. Patterson exempt from this Granger-imposed requirement for fit and proper?
It has become pellucidly clear that Granger always intended to appoint the Chairman in his own deliberate judgment, abrogating the constitutional requirements. From the start, he knew who he was going to appoint and he played the nation in a reckless game. He has been setting the stage for a PNC-like rigging, similar to what we experienced in elections in 1968, 1973, 1980 and 1985 and in the bogus referendum in 1978. All Guyanese citizens and groups who cherish their freedom and want a democracy and the Dilomatic Corp must recognize that Granger and APNU+AFC are not even trying anymore to disguise their intentions. They have made an explicit declaration that the 2020 General Elections and the 2018 Local Government Elections will be rigged. Silence is not an option. We may not agree on everything, but we must unite to stop dictatorship.
Dr. Leslie Ramsammy