The Opposition, Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday filed an injunction in the High Court to rescind President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on the grounds of unconstitutionality.
Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall described the unilateral appointment not only as unconstitutional but illegal, null, void and of no effect. He said the PPP is also seeking a declaration that Patterson is not qualified to be appointed in provision with article 161-2 of the Constitution of Guyana.
“We are seeking an order rescinding, revoking, and quashing the appointment of Justice Patterson as chairman of GECOM and we are seeking an order removing him from office and seeking an order directing the President to choose a person from the 18 names submitted to him by Leader of the Opposition or for the court to make an appropriate order that it seems fit,” he added.
According to Nandlall, the injunction was filed in the name of the Executive Secretary of the PPP and Member of Parliament (MP) Zulfikar Mustapha, who is an elected official that has legal authority. “We are waiting now on a date that would be assigned to the matter by the Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George-Wilshire. We should get that and serve it and an early date will be fixed,” he explained.
Apart from that, the Opposition MP said he also plans to write the Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards requesting that the matter be heard expeditiously while noting that the Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharrat Jagdeo will also make a similar request.
Nandlall told this publication that the matter has no facts that are in dispute. “There are only pure questions of law which are to be determined. So it should not take any long period of time to be determined…the legal questions being raised here, have already been answered by the Chief Justice’s ruling in the Martin Gaskin matter that was before the courts.”
Patterson, currently a legal advisor in the Legal Affairs Ministry, was sworn in a few hours after President Granger met briefly with Jagdeo last week. Granger said his decision to select a GECOM Chairman was done in accordance with Article 161 of the Constitution for the appointment of a GECOM Chairman.
The head of state said he informed Jagdeo during their meeting that he found that the third list of nominees submitted on August 25, 2017 was unacceptable within the meaning of the Constitution and that he had also paid careful attention to the ruling of the Chief Justice.
Asked why he decided to hand pick 84-year-old Justice Patterson for this position, the President said it is because of his extensive experience as a former Chief Justice of Grenada. “He has long judicial service and we feel that he is a fit and proper person. So it’s important for the reason I mentioned, that we bring this to an end and continue with the business of Guyana,” he added.
The decision has not gone down well with the political Opposition. During a press conference on Thursday last, Jagdeo announced that his party would be withdrawing its support from any form of cooperation with Government and would also mount a legal challenge to the appointment.
In addition to expressing his intention to raise the matter with the diplomatic community, Jagdeo indicted that the PPP will be calling on its support base countrywide for the national boycott.
Both civil society and trade unions have come out in strong opposition, condemning the decision taken by President Granger to unilaterally appoint someone. The Private Sector Commission (PSC) has since condemned the decision as “dangerous” and a threat to democracy and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) claimed that the decision could lead to a decline in the economy.