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“Permission” concerns at GECOM over legal opinion, hiring of lawyer for CCJ cases

Flashback: Desmond Trotman receiving his instrument of appointment as Elections Commissioner from President David Granger at State House on November 24, 2017.

Elections Commissioner, Desmond Trotman on Tuesday objected to the tabling of an opinion on the implications of the expired voters’ list by the Guyana Elections Commission’s (GECOM) Legal Adviser, Excellence Dazzell without the permission of the full Commission.

But he did not object to the hiring of a lawyer to represent GECOM at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) without that electoral body’s approval.

Trotman dated back the emergence of the opinion to a request by Opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) elections commissioner Bibi Shadick that Dazzell provide an opinion, but he said the seven-member Commission never agreed to do so. “Because I know there was no agreement on that, I raised it today as a matter of concern and I pointed out that the way in which it appeared before the Commission had to do with some form of deceit,” Trotman told reporters.

Commissioner Trotman said he has since asked for an inquiry to be conducted as Dazzell’s legal opinion surfaced Monday at a time when there is a High Court challenge to the house-to-house registration efforts. Trotman said he was concerned that the Attorney-at-law was now saying that she had formulated the opinion in April, but had failed to say that she had drafted her opinion when the Shadick request had been raised.

“For me, the appearance of this opinion today is pregnant with suspicion and I do, we believe, we require an investigation into that,” he said. Trotman said any commissioner could make a request, but the administrative and technical staff could only take action if the Commission agrees. Trotman reported that GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice James Patterson admitted seeing a draft opinion, but he believed that was the product of Dazzell’s initiative.

“My argument is that the appearance of this document had nothing to do with her initiative because if it was, she would have notified us some time ago that she had this draft but she never notified us and suddenly it appeared last night in a set of documents that she sent to commissioners,” he said. He added that it appeared that Dazzell responded to a commissioner’s instruction instead of the Commission.

The voters’ list expired on April 30 and, according to Trotman, GECOM staff could go knocking at residents’ doors countrywide by next month to jot down their names, ages and addresses as part of a plan to create a fresh voters’ list.

GECOM’s hired lawyer at CCJ

Trotman, one of the three coalition-backed elections commissioners, admitted that the Commission did not approve the hiring of Attorney-at-law, Stanley Marcus to represent the elections management authority at the CCJ.

GECOM’s Attorney-at-law, Stanley Marcus appearing at the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Trotman put down the GECOM Chairman Patterson’s advice to hire Marcus to urgency. “I think it had to do with time. It is a time-constraint and so the Chairman would have acted, I believe, on behalf of the Commission and then he would bring the matter to the Commission for approval.”

Shadick reportedly raised the question of payment to Marcus to which Patterson said no bill had been sent to GECOM. She also expressed concern that lawyers were being hired by GECOM without its approval. “Lawyers are being retained for GECOM and GECOM doesn’t even know,” she remarked.

GECOM is a party to two cases before the CCJ: the constitutionality of President David Granger’s unilateral appointment of Patterson as GECOM Chairman in 2017 and the consolidated appeals to last December’s controversial vote on a no-confidence motion.