President David Granger said a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) must preferably not only be a judge or eligible to be judge but must not be an activist or member of any political party.
The Opposition Leader’s Office said, despite the concerns about the characteristics, Jagdeo urged representatives of Civil society organisations on Tuesday to respond by March 27, 2017 as he “remained committed to submitting six more names” “as this was an urgent and critical issue for the entire nation and its stability.”
GECOM has been without a Chairman since February 28, 2017 when Dr. Steve Surujbally stepped down after 15 years at the helm.
In expanding on the features – independent, impartial and integrity- Granger told Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo that the new GECOM Chairman should not be an activist or even remotely associated with a political party.
“That person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious etc)” and “that person should not have any political affiliation or should not belong to any political party in any form, apparent or hidden,” Granger told Jagdeo in a letter dated March 14, 2017.
The Opposition Leader said that a meeting on Tuesday met with 55 representatives of 33 civil society organisations, they questioned the constitutionality of the characteristics laid out by the President.
“In fact, these criteria were seen as an imposition on the constitution which makes no such demands. More disconcerting to all was one clause in particular “(d) that a person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious, etc.,);” which was thought to be discriminatory and violated the anti-discrimination articles of the constitution,” Jagdeo’s office said in a statement.
Those with whom Jagdeo met included leaders of the Christian, Hindu and Muslim faiths, private sector, GTUC and FITUG, Amerindian organizations and the National Toshaos Council, the Indian Arrival Committee and the Justice Institute. His office said representatives of civil society expressed doubts about the criteria.
“The participants found it difficult to come up with candidates who would fulfill all of these criteria. In fact, persons doubted if the President himself could find any one who fulfilled his own criteria. Some wondered what were the reasons for the President making the range for selection so extraordinarily restrictive,” the Opposition Leader’s Office said.
The first list of six names had included, among others, Indian Rights Activist, Rhyaan Shah, executive members of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ramesh Dookhoo and Retired Major General, Norman Mc Lean. History Professor, James Rose is closely associated with the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
President Granger’s list of the other qualities of a GECOM Chairman are that the person should be qualified to be a judge or should have been an Attorney-at-Law for a minimum of seven years. In the absence of those, as it relates to the other provision of “any other fit and proper person”, he said that person should have “wide electoral knowledge, capable of handling electoral matters because he or she is qualified to exercise unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters.
Granger said that person must also be able to discharge his or her functions without fear or favour, that is, he or she will be not allow any person or organisation to influence him or her to compromise his or her neutrality. He added that such functions must be discharged neutrally between the two opposing parties, as he or she would have done in Court between two opposing litigants. Also stated is the need for a GECOM Chairman to have general character of honesty, integrity, faithfulness and diligence in the discharge of his or duty as Chairman.