Previously appointed GECOM Chairmen constitutional; Court can’t compel President to give reasons for rejecting nominees

Last Updated on Friday, 13 January 2017, 21:41 by Denis Chabrol

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan

Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan on Friday disagreed with President David Granger’s assertion that the selection process for previous Chairmen of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was illegal, while at the same time saying that a President’s decision is final and cannot be challenged successfully in the Court.

“If that is what the president is saying, I didn’t interpret the President saying that but if that is what he said I disagree with him. And he is indicating that we won the 205 elections by an unconstitutional Chairman ? That is what you are trying to tell us I don’t believe that,” said Ramjattan. Later questioning and expressing disbelief that the President had said so, the AFC Leader said he understood that the six names are unacceptable and anything else Granger said was “merely obiter (by the way)”.

President Granger was quoted in a Ministry of the President statement as saying, “Even if the Constitution had been breached, or a nomination been made in breach of the Constitution, 10 or 20 years ago, there is no need to repeat it so that’s not a precedent. I am accepting now as President that the Constitutional provisions must be applied.”

Granger was once nominated by then Opposition Leader, Desmond Hoyte to become GECOM Chairman. Then President, Bharrat Jagdeo ignored the name of Justice Rudolph Harper that had been also on Hoyte’s list and picked Major General Joseph Singh instead. Other Chairmen without legal background are Ambassador Rudy Collins; gold miner Edward Hopkinson and veterinary doctor, Steve Surujbally.

Ramjattan made known his position at an AFC bi-weekly news conference, against the background of a one-week old controversy that has erupted since Granger deemed Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s six nominees unacceptable and said Guyana’s Constitution places greater preference for a judge, retired judge or someone eligible to be a judge.

Ramjattan declared that previous Elections Commission Chairmen were appointments were all constitutional.  “Those were very much constitutional and, if I might tell you this it was very fortuitous or fortunate that the then President and Opposition Leader managed to find favour with a name on the first list,” he said.

The Constitution also provides for the appointment of a fit and proper person. Granger has since asked for Jagdeo to dispatch another six names. Jagdeo has not done so and Granger has since agreed to dispatch the reasons for declining the first batch.

Up to recently a practicing criminal and civil lawyer, Ramjattan contended that the President has sole discretion in determining who is acceptable to be appointed a GECOM Chairman and his decision cannot be challenged in court.

“Whatever the President gives even if it is wrong reasoning , that does not matter because it is not relevant and  he does not find acceptable because reasons are not required within the realms of politics…

There is absolutely no reasons that are required for the President to give to the Leader of the Opposition ‘ why I don’t want dem six names, none’ and no Court of Law can compel him to do so. It’s a political question and the issue is non-justiciable,” said the AFC Leader.

He said no one could question the reason behind the political decision to nominate the six persons. They are Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Lawrence Lachmansingh; Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram;  Business Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo; Retired Major General Norman Mc Lean; Businesswoman and Indian Rights Activist, Rhyaan Shah and History Professor, James Rose.