President David Granger on Monday appeared cautious about giving reasons for rejecting Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s nominees for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, adding that a recent High Court ruling is not enforceable.
He said the constitution does not require him to do so and he was wary about the implications of doing so in a small country. “I do not know that that requirement is enshrined in the Constitution. Guyana is a small country and we have to be very careful about the judgments about persons’ character and their capabilities,” he said.
Against the background of the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) threatening legal action if the President does not release his reasons for bypassing the 18 nominees without giving a reason, a marked difference from Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s ruling. “I intend not to contradict the Chief Justice but I have not been advised that that is a requirement which is enforceable. I don’t know that’s enforceable,” he said.
Concerns have been also raised about an aspect of newly-appointed GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson’s legal career. In his curriculum, he states that he was Chief Justice of Grenada, but none of the available records checked shows that he had held that position in 1987.
Granger, who last Friday had highlighted that Patterson had served as Chief Justice in the sister Caribbean Community (Caricom) member State, on Monday sought to play down the apparent discrepancy that has surfaced. “He was a judge of the High Court of Guyana so the information he was Chief Justice of Grenada. His Curriculum Vitae is not a secret. You can examine it for yourself. He was a judge in Guyana; that’s important,” the President said.
For his part, Justice Patterson said he could not remember the precise dates but he served as a High Court judge with Justice Archibald Nedd and after he demitted office, he (Patterson) acted as Chief Justice. Justice Nedd served as Chief Justice from 1979 to 1986 after he was succeeded by Sir Denis Byron who acted as Chief Justice until 1987 when Sir Samuel Horatio Graham was appointed substantive Chief Justice.
The President urged the media not to limit their views on the appointment of a GECOM Chairman to the negotiations between himself and Opposition Leader Jagdeo, but to take into consideration that the opposition People’s Progressive Party had mounted a campaign to get then GECOM Chairman, Dr. Steve Surujbally out of office after that party lost the May 2015 general election. “This process started a year when the People’s Progressive Party started to hound Dr. Surujbally out of office. They protested, they picketed and they drove him out of office and thius process has been dragged on for over a year and the people of this country demand, the people of this country deserve, the people of this country need to have a functioning elections commission and the process cannot go on at the whims and fancies of the Leader of the Opposition,” he said.
The third list had been made up of GECOM Chairman, Retired Major General Joseph Singh; Attorney-at-Law, Teni Housty; Attorney-at-Law, Sanjeev Datadin; Aviator and businesswoman Annette Arjoon-Martins; Seventh Day Adventist Pastor, Onesi La Fleur and former magistrate Krishnadatt Persaud.
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 rejected list was comprised 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.