He has been appointed to one of the most crucial constitutional posts in Guyana; but when asked exactly when he served as a Chief Justice (CJ) of Grenada, new Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman James Patterson said he cannot remember.
Patterson’s service as a Chief Justice of Grenada in 1987 was listed on his Curriculum Vitae (CV) for the GECOM position. It has been hotly debated after background checks initially turned up no records he was ever the CJ.
In 1986 the post was held by Dennis Byron (acting), who was succeeded by Sir Samuel Horatio Graham the following year.
“I’ve been appointed acting Chief Justice. They had me acting for a number of years. I don’t remember (when). People refer to me, to this day, as Chief Justice…,” Patterson stated.
“I don’t remember the precise years. It’s got to be anything around 30 years ago. I went there in 1983 and came back in 1991,” Patterson, who was sworn in last month, said. “That much I remember,” he added.
The Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jagdeo, who was handed a copy of Justice Patterson’s CV by President David Granger ahead of his appointment, has since told media operatives that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) harboured apprehensions over “serious concerns raised about whether Justice Patterson was ever the Chief Justice in Grenada”.
The Opposition Leader had reported that information coming out of the Caribbean island from persons including lawyers that worked there during that time indicate that “they don’t know about this”.
Jagdeo had suggested to media operatives that if it was that Justice Patterson did in fact make a dishonest claim in his CV and “put something on his CV that is not true”, it would immediately disqualify “him from acting impartially and with integrity at GECOM”.
Meanwhile, in responding to the criticism and debate about his partiality to the People’s National Congress, Justice Patterson admitted to being friends with late former President Desmond Hoyte and to having studied with him. Patterson, however, said he does not and has never belonged to a political party.
He also shied away from questions regarding the constitutionality of Granger’s decision to appoint him. According to Patterson, the President has Attorney General Basil Williams to advise him.
Patterson was hurriedly sworn in as GECOM Chairman in a late night ceremony on October 19, 2017, by President Granger. This is despite not being on any of the nomination lists submitted by Opposition Leader.
Since Granger reached outside the 18 nominees provided, in an unprecedented move to handpick Patterson, a number of individuals and organisations spanning a wide cross-section of society have also soundly criticised and condemned the President’s unilateral decision.