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After CCJ ruling gov’t, opposition in fresh squabble over procedure for appointing GECOM Chairman

Gail Teixeira, President David Granger, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo and Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall.

The Guyana government and the opposition on Saturday appeared to be on a collision course again over the appointment of a Chairman of the elections commission.

Government says President David Granger can also submit six nominees for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

In a letter to the Opposition Leader’s Office, Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency Joseph Harmon said that it is the interpretation of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling. “The government interprets this to mean that both the President and Leader of the Opposition will provide nominees on the list of six persons,” Harmon told Gail Teixeira of the Opposition Leader’s office.

The section of the CCJ ruling states that “the Court decided, therefore, that the most sensible approach to operationalise the Article was for the Opposition Leader and the President to communicate with each other in good faith and to perhaps even meet to discuss the eligibility of each candidate for Chairman before the list is formally submitted.”

However, senior opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) sources say the party was set to outrightly reject government’s position because that would amount to rewriting the reformed Guyana Constitution. The sources said the party could not agree to such an interpretation but was aware of the cut and thrust of discussions the President could conceivably float names instead of submitting nominees formally.

It is unclear when Texeira would reply to Harmon’s letter dated June 28.

The Director-General appeared to set the acceptance of government’s interpretation as a condition for Granger and Jagdeo to meet. “It is hoped that the Leader of the Opposition could quickly communicate his view on this issue before a date for the meeting with the President is finalised,” Harmon told Teixeira.

Retired Justice James Patterson, who Granger had unilaterally appointed after rejecting Jagdeo’s 18 nominees, has since resigned after the CCJ’s ruling.

The regional court has found that Patterson’s appointment was flawed and unconstitutional because Granger had not given any reason for rejecting the Opposition Leader’s nominees.

Patterson had voted with pro-governing coalition commissioners Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman for house-to-house registration before the next general elections. But, Jagdeo is adamant that elections be held in August or September with the existing voters’ list now that the CCJ has ruled that last December’s no-confidence motion was validly passed by 33 to 32 votes in the 65-seat National Assembly.