President David Granger on Wednesday said that the Constitution is very clear on the matter of the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and that he is committed to fulfilling the Constitutional requirement within the ambits of the law.
The Head of State, who was at the time responding to questions from the members of press corps at State House, said that Government has no interest in playing politics with the matter and will provide the clarification that Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo needs, as requested in his letter to the Head of State, sent on January 10, 2017.
“I am not playing politics, I am serious about the appointment of the Chairman of GECOM and as far as I can say, the Constitution is very, very clear. Mr. Jagdeo did write to me and he asked for some clarifications. Well it has now gone into the legal zone and we are going to ensure that he gets the legal clarifications that he needs but in terms of the names, I am not in the business of naming names at this stage. I am in the business of satisfying the Constitutional requirement for the appointment. The law will prevail and we will continue to engage the Leader of the Opposition as is required under the Constitution… We are looking at everything under the legal framework not within the framework of politics or personalities,” the President was quoted as saying by the Ministry of the Presidency
The Head of State emphasised that regardless what obtained in the past, now that the responsibility has been vested in him as President of Guyana, the provisions of the Constitution will be followed. Responding to questions on his acceptance of the nomination for the GECOM Chairmanship by late President Hugh Desmond Hoyte in 2000 the President said that the Constitution explicitly states the requirements for the position. He noted that any breaches that may have occurred in the past must not be allowed to persist.
“My understanding is that at all material times a member of the legal profession or several members of the legal profession were on the list but my acceptance of the nomination …does not necessarily mean that I must accept the six names that were submitted. So it doesn’t follow the law of what you would call the ‘non sequitur’ [a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement]. So the point is, even if the Constitution had been breached, or a nomination been made in breach of the Constitution, 10 or 20 years ago, there is no need to repeat it so that’s not a precedent. I am accepting now as President that the Constitutional provisions must be applied,” the Head of State said.
Though the list provided by the Opposition Leader does contain the name of Mr. Christopher Ram, who was admitted to the Bar in 2009, this is the first time a Senior Counsel or person qualified to be a judge or a former or current judge has not been included on a list submitted by an Opposition Leader.
President Granger had said that the list of nominees provided to him is unacceptable and fall short of the Constitutional requirements. The Article first outlines clearly that “…the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a Judge of a Court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a Court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such Judge or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non governmental political partied represented in the National Assembly.”