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Opposition Leader threatens to pull out from ‘bad faith’ talks with President to select new GECOM Chairman

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

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo Monday night said he was prepared to nominate more persons for the post of Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, but threatened to pull out of talks with President David Granger if there is bad faith.

“We are acting in good faith but if the government does not act in good faith, then we will be put in a situation where we will have not to participate in this process,” Gail Teixeira told a news briefing.

Attorney-at-Law Anil Nandlall, who is one Jagdeo’s representatives in the talks, gave government an ultimatum for committing to consider Jagdeo’s nominees. “That does not augur well for the continuation of the process…we will not be persuaded that the government is acting in good faith”, he said.

Nandlall came very close to saying that Granger’s suggested names are aligned to the People’s National Congress Reform, the largest party in the governing coalition. “Look at those names of persons who are highly politically connected to the government,” he said.

The eight persons nominated by the Head of State are retired justices Stanley Moore and Claudette La Bennet, Economist Dr. Aubrey Armstrong, former PNC/R executive members Stanley Ming and Kaddim Khan, former GECOM Chairman (ret’d) Justice James Patterson, former Solicitor General, Kim Kyte and Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) Chairperson and Attorney, Kessaundra Alves.

Moore is a former Home Affairs Minister in the People’s National Congress (PNC) government, Armstrong had chaired an arbitration tribunal that had awarded huge salary increases to public servants.

Through his representatives—Juan Edghill, Gail Teixeira and Anil Nandlall—Jagdeo lamented Granger’s refusal to consider his 11 nominees but instead submitted eight names.

They accused the President of breaching last weekend’s agreement that he, through his delegation, would consider the Opposition Leader’s 11 nominees. Instead, Jagdeo’s representatives said Granger’s representatives said the President gave them no instruction to proceed with the 11.

“Without the President offering an objection where we could bring six of the eleven, we don’t see the need for eight other names,” Edghill said.

Teixeira and Nandlall lamented that Jagdeo’s nominees were dispatched to the Ministry of the Presidency since Saturday afternoon. They highlighted that the Opposition Leader is not constitutionally bound to give reasons for refusing names floated by the President. The Caribbean Court of Justice, in declaring Granger’s unilateral appointment of Patterson as unconstitutional, has said the President is obliged to give reasons in keeping with transparency and openness.

The two sides are due to meet again on Tuesday when they might consider all 19 names.

The Opposition Leader’s nominees are Annette Arjoon-Martins, retired Justice of Appeal B S Roy, Gerry Gouveia, Retired Major General and former GECOM Chairman Joseph Singh , Attorney-at-Law Kashir Khan, former Senior Magistrate, Krisndatt Persaud, Governance consultant Lawrence Lachmansingh, Retired Major General Norman McLean, Onesi La Fleur, and private sector executive Ramesh Dookhoo. Singh had resigned as a Presidential Advisor after President Granger had deemed him unfit and improper for the GECOM chairmanship.

Gouveia, Khan and Dookhoo are perceived in some circles as being too cozy with the Jagdeo-led opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Back in 2009, McLean and Sita Ramlall had been charged with forgery of documents purporting to represent the adoption of a female child. The United States embassy had picked up the alleged offence and had called in Guyanese police. Two years later in 2011, the charges were dismissed by then Magistrate, Fazil Azeez.