President David Granger said that Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo must submit a list that matches the criteria set out in keeping with Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana for the selection of a ‘fit and proper’ person to fill the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The Head of State made these remarks Friday night in an interview with the Press and Publicity Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency and made it clear that the list must include six persons, who are all qualified so that the choice is not limited.
“Every member of the list suggested must conform to the criteria and you cannot put on the list, a person who does not conform… I must be given a choice. I don’t believe that the second list gave me the range of choice that the people of Guyana deserve,” he said. The Leader of the Opposition must now submit a third list to the Head of State. “Nothing is ever settled until it is settled right and he has to get it right,” the President was quoted as saying.
The latest list that the President has deemed “unacceptable” is made up of Retired Justice of Appeal B.S Roy, Retired Justice William Ramlall; Attorney-at-law and a former Magistrate, Ms. Oneidge Walrond-Allicock; Attorney-at-Law, Kashir Khan; Attorney-at-law, Nadia Sagar and businessman, Gerald Gouveia.
This is the second list that the President has had cause to reject on the grounds that it is not unacceptable and falls short of the Constitutional requirements, adding that he is convinced that the Leader of the Opposition is capable of coming up with a suitable list. President Granger said, “I’m prepared to work with the Leader of the Opposition for as long as it takes to have somebody selected who fits the criteria, satisfies the Constitution and is one that the people of Guyana could be happy with. I’m prepared to work with the Leader of the Opposition for as long as it takes, but I’m not going to give the people of Guyana the appointment of a person, who is not fit and proper in accordance with the Constitution or criteria, which have been laid out.” In addition to the constitution, the President has said that “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.”
Noting that a Chairman needs to be appointed as Local Government Elections (LGE) are imminent and in preparation for General Elections, President Granger said, “The Leader of the Opposition must do what the Constitution requires him to do… and he has not done that as yet.”
Earlier Friday, Jagdeo had noted that “significantly, the letter does not indicate what next steps, if any the President requires to be taken.”
The Opposition Leader suggested that the President appeared bent on unilaterally selecting a person of his choice in violation of the letter and spirit of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution and indeed, the Carter Formula. Jagdeo warned that, “the Leader of the Opposition hereby assures that should the President proceed along this unconstitutional, undemocratic and diabolical path there will be litigation and other consequences for which the President will be responsible.”
After the first list had been rejected on Constitutional grounds, the Head of State and Mr. Jagdeo engaged in a period of consultations, with legal representatives from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) meeting with the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams to ensure that there was a clear understanding of the requirements. President Granger then provided clear criteria in anticipation of the submission of a new list.
“We examined the qualifications very closely and in the end it was clear that the list as a whole did not conform to the criteria as laid down in the Constitution or the list of criteria, which was established… I expect that he would go back to the drawing board and produce a list, which conforms to those criteria. I’m quite serious. It’s an important appointment and I think it must be taken seriously,” he said.
The first list which was submitted in December 2015 included Major General (retired) Norman Mc Lean, Attorney and Political Analyst, Mr. Christopher Ram, Former Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, Peace and Governance Consultant, Mr. Lawrence Lachmansingh, Businesswoman, Ms. Rhyaan Shah and Professor Dr. James Rose.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana:
(2) Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political partied represented in the National Assembly.