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PPP appeals High Court’s decision on GECOM Chairman’s appointment

Inside the Court of Appeal’s courtroom

Three days after the High Court ruled that the President of Guyana can rightfully ignore the Opposition Leader’s nominees for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday filed an appeal, saying that decision was wrong on several grounds.

PPP Executive Secretary, Zulficar Mustapha, through his battery of lawyers, wants the Guyana Court of Appeal to scrap Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s entire decision and instruct President David Granger to pick one of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees contained in three separate lists.

The Chief Justice has ruled that even if she had agreed with Mustapha’s grounds, she could not overstepped into the President’s jurisdiction and ordered him to appoint one of the Opposition Leader’s nominees. “The short answer to this contention is that to do so would be for this Court to usurp the authority given to the President by the Constitution. The discretion to accept or reject a list and by extension  the discretion to appoint one of the nominees on the list submitted pursuant to Article 161(2) lies with the President,” she has said.

Led by Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall, the legal team contends, among other things, that George-Wiltshire erred and misdirected herself by failing to call into the question Granger’s decision to appoint Retired Justice James Patterson as GECOM Chairman although she said the Guyanese leader should have given reasons.

“The Learned Hearing Judge erred and misdirected Herself in law by failing to impugn the appointment of Mr. Justice James Patterson as Chairman of GECOM after Her Honour ruled that reasons are required to be provided by the President for the rejection of the list submitted by the Leader of the Opposition pursuant to Article 161 (2) of the Constitution and after having ruled that the President provided no such reasons,” the lawyers said on behalf of Mustapha.

He is further challenging the Chief Justice’s decision, saying it was “wrong, misconceived and erroneous in law” as it allows the President to reject a list of names submitted by the Opposition Leader in keeping with Article 161(2) of Guyana’s constitution and ” make a unilateral appointment of a person of his own choosing”. That, the PPP official says through his lawyers, will upset the delicate balance in choosing someone who is respected by both sides.

“The decision of the Learned Hearing Judge is wrong, misconceived and erroneous in law as it has destroyed a delicate but fundamental balance in the composition of the Guyana Elections Commission which the framers of the Constitution intended to repose in a Chairman appointed by a formula captured in Article 161 (2) of the Constitution which ensures that such a Chairman enjoys the confidence and acceptance of both the Leader of the Opposition and the President,” states Mustapha in court papers seen by Demerara Waves Online News.

Additionally, he said the Chief Justice’s ruling was flawed because it empowers the President to reject the list as unacceptable although one or more persons on that list is or are acceptable to the President.

Arguing that Justice George-Wiltshire’s ruling “has reduced the role of the Leader of the Opposition to being merely perfunctory”, the lawyers for the PPP official said the Judge failed to state whether the President has the power to request more that one list of six names from the Opposition Leader.

The High Court last week Friday dismissed the PPP Executive Secretary’s legal challenge to the unilateral appointment of Retired Justice Patterson in October 2017, after rejecting the three lists of six nominees each.

The Chief Justice said the PPP Executive Secretary failed to establish that Justice Patterson is aligned to the People’s National Congress Reform because the GECOM Chairman is a member of a Facebook Group and he was a pallbearer for former President and PNCR Leader, Desmond Hoyte.

Further, she dismissed Mustapha’s contention that Justice Patterson’s integrity was questionable because he had claimed in his curriculum vitae that he had been Chief Justice of Grenada in 1987 when in fact he had been acting Chief Justice.

The PPP has said that it would take the case to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) if necessary.