LETTER: Strict timelines should be imposed on replacing Patterson, setting elections date

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Dear Editor,

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has finally rendered its long-awaited ruling on the two critical constitutional matters pertaining to Guyana and these must be honoured without delay. The CCJ ruled that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed and elections must be held within ninety days, and the unilateral appointment of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair was flawed. The court asked (ordered) the lawyers for the two contending parties (really President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo) to meet and suggest a solution on a way forward to honour the rulings and return to court on Monday, June 24, with their recommendations.

If the two opposing sides can’t agree, then the court said it is prepared to impose a solution on appointing a GECOM Chair. The key aspect of the ruling is if the two sides can’t agree, the court will impose a ruling. This means for sure, Patterson will be replaced by the CCJ, and quickly, so within a few days of June 24. It also means that the CCJ will fix a date for elections within three months.

Since the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed, then the ninety days rule must kick in. Parliament must be considered to be dissolved as of today and the President must announce a date for elections, latest by September 24 (the date the court issues a final declaration on its judgment if not September 18, the date of judgment). The Government acts as caretakers until the results of the next elections. There can be no new business transactions.

Since the appointment of James Patterson as Chair of GECOM was flawed and illegal, then he must do the honourable thing (as a former Judge would do) and resign and the President must appoint someone from the lists submitted by Jagdeo. Failing to do so, the President must revoke his appointment.

The CCJ mandates there must be consultation between the President and Opposition Leader on an appointee or a list of prospective nominees from which the President appoints one as Chair. The Opposition Leader (OL) and the President should immediately meet (consultation as required by the Constitution) on resolving this issue.

The OL should submit a list of six names or have them ready to submit to the court. Since there was consultation before on the last two lists (12 names) submitted by Jagdeo, the OL can choose six names from those lists for the President to appoint one as Chair. Patterson was not among the nominees on any list. He must, therefore, go. His failure to leave will be seen as defying the court and a moral defeat for those who brought the case against his flawed appointment. Besides those legal and moral points, very few Guyanese have confidence in Patterson to supervise free and fair elections. His replacement must be done urgently by the time the CCJ reconvenes on Monday. When the lawyers return to court on Monday, they must have a fixed timeline – when the GECOM Chair will be replaced and the date for elections. If they can’t agree on timelines, then the lawyers should ask the court to impose timelines on replacing Patterson and on a date for elections.

Yours truly,

Dr Vishnu Bisram