The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Friday said it would appeal the High Court’s refusal to order President David Granger to appoint one of Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees for the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
“We will be filing an appeal to challenge this decision in our ultimate quest to secure constitutional compliance. We are prepared to go all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), if the situation so demands, to reverse what we consider an erosion of our Constitutional and electoral democracy,” the party said in a statement.
Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s decision to upheld Granger’s appointment of Retired Justice James Patterson as Chairman of the seven-member elections management authority has not gone down well with the PPP.
Expressing its “profound disappointment” in the Chief Justice’s decision, the PPP vowed to “expend every effort” to have the Guyana Court of appeal hear its case speedily.
The Chief Justice essentially ruled Friday morning that she could not order the President to pick one of Jagdeo’s nominees, even if she had agreed with PPP Executive Secretary, Zulficar Mustapha’s grounds because she could not usurp the constitutional right of the President to reject any or all listed nominees and unilaterally appoint someone from the judicial category as GECOM Chairman.
Expressing its “profound disappointment” in the Chief Justice’s decision to throw out Mustapha’s legal challenge against Granger’s unilateral appointment of Retired Justice James Patterson as GECOM Chairman, the PPP reiterated the importance of having the President select one of the Opposition Leader’s nominees because the Chairman has a casting vote to break deadlocks at a bi-partisan Commission.
“This decision strikes at the heart of our Constitutional and electoral democracy. It has destroyed that delicate balance, which a Chairman is intended to bring to the Guyana Elections Commission. The framers of the Constitution intended this Chairman to be appointed through a mechanism, which involves an input from both the President and the Leader of the Opposition, to ultimately produce a person who enjoys the confidence of both,” the PPP said.
The PPP charged that the High Court’s upholding of the President’s decision to unilaterally appoint a GECOM Chairman was misplaced because such a move by the President should only take place where the Opposition Leader fails to provide a list of nominees to the President. “Unfortunately, this ruling, in violation of the letter and spirit of the Constitution, seeks to legitimize a unilateral appointment of a GECOM Chairman and has crushed that crucial balance in the makeup of the Commission,” the party said.
That party expressed “deep regret” that the focus of the Chief Justice’s ruling had focussed heavily on” inconsequential issues and the glossing over of the more fundamental questions. The PPP feared that Friday’s ruling could open the door for more executive unilateral appointments even if the President and the Opposition Leader must agree.
The High Court struck down all of the PPP’s grounds for the President’s appointment to declared null and void. The Chief Justice disagreed with Mustapha that Justice Patterson having been a pallbearer of President Desmond Hoyte could be construed as being a political associate of Hoyte’s People’s National Congress Reform. Also struck down was Mustapha’s claim that Justice Patterson being a member of a pro-PNCR Facebook group; Justice Patterson’s apparent misrepresentation in his curriculum vitae that he had been Chief Justice of Grenada in 1987 when in reality he had been acting Chief Justice, a claim that Justice Patterson was a key religious leader and that he also been hired by government as an advisor and Chairman of a Commission of Inquiry.