The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on Tuesday confirmed that it is among several organisations that are deeply concerned that President David Granger has barred activists from being eligible to become the next Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
General Secretary of the GTUC, Coretta Mc Donald warned that Granger’s conditionality could backfire on him if he has to unilaterally select a Chairman should Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo continue to submit lists that might be deemed unacceptable by the Guyanese leader. “Some more thought should have been give to it because from my point of view some of the qualities or the criteria that are listed there, it can work against the government too because if the President doesn’t find favour with the list submitted by the Opposition Leader, then what happens?
“Is it that the President is now going to submit a person of his choice and if he does, would that person fit all that you have listed there because it is so wide and it can have implications for yourself (Granger) because you can shoot yourself in the foot,” said Mc Donald who is also General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).
Mc Donald said she was inclined to accept that nominees should not be politically aligned, but she said she was extremely worried that women, religious, trade union or other types of activists have been blocked.
The GTUC official also questioned how the President would go about measuring whether someone is honest, faithful, diligent and possesses integrity. “I was trying to find out what measuring stick are we going to use or what measuring stick is going to be applied to measure integrity and faithfulness…I was trying to find out ‘faithful’ to who,” she said.
Mc Donald said she was unsure about the future of the appointment of a new GECOM Chairman because the conditions exist for the President to reject an entire list if he deems one of the nominees unacceptable.
The Opposition Leader’s Office said earlier Tuesday that to rule out activists or politically aligned persons is to violate Guyana’s constitution and other laws related to discrimination. ” 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 People’s Progressive Party has warned that if the President unilaterally appoints a GECOM Chairman, the matter would be taken to court.
The President has already rejected a list of nominees by the Opposition Leader. Those nominees were Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Lawrence Lachmansingh; Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram; Business Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo; Retired Major General, Joseph Singh; Indian Rights Activist, Rhyaan Shah and History Professor, James Rose.
The President has told the Opposition Leader that a GECOM Chairman must not only be a judge or eligible to be judge but must not be an activist or politically aligned, “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.
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.
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 or “any other fit and proper 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.