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ANUG questions constitutionality of James Patterson as GECOM Chairman

President David Granger (left) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin La Rocque.

Even as President David Granger indicated that he would be seeking the advice of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) before naming an elections date, A New and United Guyana (ANUG) political party on Wednesday questioned whether James Patterson was actually the Chairman of the elections management authority.

“If Mr. Patterson has not been appointed, as the Caribbean Court has found, it may be artificial to talk about his resignation. You resign from a position you have. The CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice) said he should have never had the position,” said ANUG Chairman Timothy Jonas.

ANUG is one of two new political parties launched less than one year ago. The other one is the Lennox Shuman-led Liberty and Justice Party.

Granger said he would call elections after the GECOM Chairman tells him that that election management authority is ready to go to the polls. “As soon as the Chairman advises me that they are ready for elections, I will make a proclamation that election day will be on that date,” he said. The National Assembly has already approved GYD$3.4 billion for GECOM to conduct the elections.

Contending that Retired Justice Patterson has been biased ever since he had been appointed, ANUG recommended that President Granger pick one of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees who would command the respect of all Guyanese instead of 50 percent.

Making out a case for Patterson to be replaced, Jonas argued that Granger’s unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chairman was unhelpful to confidence in him at the helm of the seven-member commission.

“We know our elections commission comprise three-three and the only way there can be confidence in that commission is if the chairman that has the casting vote is independent, fair and has our trust. That has not been the case for the last few years. The chairman hasn’t been independent and doesn’t have the trust of at least 50 of the Guyanese people. The manner of his appointment did not provoke the trust of half of this country and therefore, decisions that has [sic] been made by GECOM are all tarnished are all suspect and that is something that needs to be dealt with urgently,” Jonas told a news conference.

ANUG made known its position less than one day after the President seemed to insist that his appointment of Patterson was constitutional and he called on the regional appeal court to show him where he flouted the Constitution. “As far as I’m concerned, I have always operated within the ambit of the constitution and I have to select somebody who is fit and proper in accordance with the definition laid out in the constitution. I have never gone outside of the constitution. If they felt the process is flawed, they must let me know what the flaw is,” he said.

The President urged that Guyana await the CCJ’s consequential orders that would be made on Monday. The Guyanese leader plans to formally invite Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to another round of consultations.

In delivering the decision on Tuesday, CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders said the President had no right to add new conditions for the nominees to possess and that he ought to have given reasons for rejecting Jagdeo’s nominees in accordance with openness and transparency.

The CCJ recommended that the Opposition Leader and the President meet to hammer out the selection of nominees after which a list of six nominees would be presented to the Guyanese leader who would then pick one.

The CCJ judgment states that ‘The President should only find a nominee unacceptable for some good reason on objective grounds. If a President were permitted, capriciously or whimsically, without proffering a good reason, to reject eligible nominees, this would frustrate the proper working of the Constitution, defeat the intention behind the amendment to Article 161(2) and pave the way for unilateral presidential appointment.”

Later Wednesday, the Ministry of the Presidency issued a release quoting Granger as telling Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Irwin La Rocque that he respects the CCJ’s decisions on his unilateral appointment of the GECOM Chairman and the validity of last December’s no-confidence motion. I am prepared to comply with every ruling of the court…“I assure you that the Government will continue to respect the Constitution, and abide by the law.”

Granger has already laid down his condition for the next general elections: house-to-house registration which is expected to be completed by November. But, Jagdeo said he is only prepared to accept the holding of elections by August or September.