President David Granger will be considering a High Court ruling in determining who should be appointed the next Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from the list of six nominees submitted by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, government said Thursday.
“The President respects the ruling of the court in this matter and has no intention of stepping outside of the boundaries that are established there. He respects that ruling. I want to make that very clear,” Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told a news conference.
GECOM has been without a chairman since February, although the last Chairman, Veterinary Doctor, Steve Surujbally had officially resigned since last November ending his 15-year tenure.
Harmon said the Guyanese leader was keen in appointing a Chairman of the elections management body who is the “best possible” and “fit and proper” person.
Asked whether Granger would be considering the July 17, 2017 ruling by Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire in deciding who would be appointed the GECOM Chairman, Harmon said “well, yes; certainly.” That appears to be a back-down from Granger’s reaction on July 19 to the High Court ruling in which he had stated that “the Chief Justice gave an interpretation based on her perception of the Law and I will continue to act in accordance with my perception of the Constitution; that is to say I will not appoint somebody who I do not consider fit and proper.” In contrast to the Chief Justice’s decision that the President should offer reasons for his rejection in keeping with good governance best practice, the President had queried where the Constitution states that he should do so.
The Opposition Leader has already stated that he “it is my expectation that the President will select a Chairman from this list especially now that we have the ruling of the Chief Justice on this matter.” City businessman, Marcel Gaskin had sought a legal interpretation of the Constitutional provision on the appointment of a Chairman of the seven-member body.
Contrary to President Granger’s view that Guyana’s Constitution provides for a GECOM Chairman to be preferably a judge, retired judge or someone eligible to be a judge; Chief Justice George has ruled that that both the judicial and non-judicial categories are of equal weight. She has said that the person should have judge-like qualities in being fair in executing his or her duties.
The President had also added that nominees should not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious etc)” and “that person should not have any political affiliation or should not belong to any political party in any form, apparent or hidden.”
Jagdeo’s latest batch of nominees include former GECOM Chairman, Retired Major General Joseph Singh; Attorneys-at-Law Teni Housty and Sanjeev Datadin, former Magistrate Krishnadat Persaud, Aviator and businesswoman, Annette Arjoon-Martins and Pastor Onesi La Fleur.
The previous two batches of nominees have already been rejected. Those on the second rejected list are Retired Justice of Appeal B.S Roy, Retired Justice William Ramlall; Attorney-at-law and a former Magistrate, Ms. Oneidge Walrond-Allicock; Attorney-at-Law, Kashir Khan; Attorney-at-law, Nadia Sagar and businessman, Gerald Gouveia. The President has said that he has rejected the second list because he was not presented with a range of persons from which to choose one.
The first rubbished list had been made up of Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Lawrence Lachmansingh; Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram; Retired Major General, Norman Mc Lean; Business Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo; Indian Rights Activist, Rhyaan Shah and History Professor, James Rose.