-Opposition Leader says litigation forthcoming if President unilaterally appoints someone
President David Granger, has once again, rejected the list of persons submitted by the Opposition Leader Dr Bharat Jagdeo for the appointment of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
Today, the second day of June 2017, Jagdeo received a letter from President Granger informing him that the list of six persons, which he submitted on the second day of May 2017, in accordance with Article 161 (2) of the Constitution, is “unacceptable”.
The six nominees for the second list included; retired Justice of Appeal BS Roy, retired Justice William Ramlall, Attorney and former Magistrate Oneidge Walrond Allicock, Attorney Kashir Khan, Attorney Nadia Sagar and Captain Gerald Gouveia.
Jagdeo had posited with respect to the now rejected list of nominees that “one(1) is a former Judge of the Court of Appeal of Guyana; one(1) is a former Judge of the High Court of Guyana; three(3) are Attorneys-at-law with over ten(10) years of good standing at the Guyana Bar and one(1) is a former Magistrate and therefore, qualify to be Judges of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in Guyana, in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana; and one(1) is a former Captain of the Guyana Defence Force, a Pilot, and a Businessman and Entrepreneur.”
The President’s letter to the Opposition Leader cites Article 161(2) of the Constitution, more specifically, that the Chairman should be appointed ‘from the list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President.’
The President then goes on to say that “I have examined the Curricula Vitae of the six persons in light of the criteria defined in my letter to you dated 2017.03.14…I have found the list to be ‘unacceptable’ within the meaning of the Constitution and of those criteria.”
This letter was received a few hours after the Leader of the Opposition concluded a press conference, at which he was critical of the President’s overall approach to this issue, which he considers to be of fundamental national importance.
Jagdeo, in a subsequent release, said that the letter does not indicate what next steps, if any, the President requires to be taken.
The Opposition Leader said he notes “with deep concern the cavalier and callous manner in which the President continues to express no confidence in and denigrates the professional reputation, integrity and competence of Guyanese of high calibre who have rendered sterling contributions to the development of our country and in service to our people and who have distinguished themselves in their individual endeavours and pursuits.”
Jagdeo reiterated his party’s apprehension that the “President is bent on unilaterally selecting a person of his choice in violation of the letter and spirit of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution and indeed, the Carter Formula.”
Moreover, the Opposition Leader warned that “should the President proceed along this unconstitutional, undemocratic and diabolical path there will be litigation and other consequences for which the President will be responsible.”
President Granger had dubbed Jagdeo’s first list of nominees as ‘unacceptable’ while indicating that they did not meet the requirements of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution.
These names included Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Lawrence Lachmansingh; Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram; businesswoman and former broadcast executive, Rhyaan Shah; Retired Major General, Norman Mc Lean; Business Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo and History Professor, James Rose.
The President’s interpretation adumbrated that a current or sitting judge or someone eligible to be a judge in Guyana or the Commonwealth Caribbean is preferred to be appointed as Chairman of the electoral body.
The Opposition’s contention however, is that the Constitution clearly contemplates two categories of persons for the post: “Firstly, a High Court judge or an Appellate Court judge, a former High Court or an Appellate Court judge or a person qualified to be a High Court or an Appellate Court judge. Secondly, or (disjunctive), any “fit and proper” person.
The President subsequently amended his position to include his ‘criteria’ that the GECOM Chairman must not only be a Judge, but must not be an activist or member of any political party, among many other provisions.
GECOM has been without a Chairman since February 28, 2017 when Dr Steve Surujbally stepped down after 15 years at the helm.