Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo Wednesday night said he has floated to President David Granger the idea of amending Guyana’s constitution to allow for foreign nominees for the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
In response to Granger’s call for the GECOM nominee to be someone with deep knowledge in electoral matters and especially people who are not political- “it’s almost impossible to meet that condition”- Jagdeo said he suggested that the pool could be broadened by amending the constitution to select non-Guyanese.
“Why not let us jointly amend that part of the Constitution … that we can submit now, we can search around the world so my list now can show people from around the world, some of the best people from around the world, so that is one of my suggestions and we will explore that” he told a public meeting of about 600 persons in his opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) stronghold of Enmore, East Coast Demerara.
The President and the Opposition Leader on Monday, June 12, 2017 agreed to establish a high-level team if Jagdeo’s third list of nominees, whenever it is submitted, is rejected. The High Court will on June 16 continue hearing arguments concerning a city businessman’s request for an interpretation of the constitution on the appointment of a GECOM Chairman.
Jagdeo said he, however, dismissed Granger’s counter suggestion that a search committee be established to search for six acceptable nominees, saying that would violate the Constitution that merely allows the President to pick one of the nominees to head the seven-member body.
“The President said that why not establish a search committee and I said Mr President you have zealosuly guarded your rights under the Constitution- the right to choose in an unfettered manner – so if I agree to a search party, you will be part of selecting my nominees too so you would help me to submit and you will choose too so that will violate the entire spirit of the Constitution so I could not agree with that,” Jagdeo recalled.
The Opposition Leader said he reminded the President that he has rejected the additional features of integrity, impartiality and independence including not being an activist for any organisation or even remotely associated with a political party.
Jagdeo reported to party faithful that he has since laid down three conditions- agreement must satisfy the PPP and People’s National Congress Reform because the PPP is not is a junior partner, must be constitutional to preserve the delicate balance of the Carter Centre formula of three commissioners from government and opposition and the Chairperson selected through collaboration and a fair approach.
Jagdeo’s two lists of six nominees each have been rejected. Granger had said the first list did not include judges, retired judges or someone eligible to be a judge. Before the second list had been submitted, Granger then added on the other criteria.
On receipt of the second list that had included two retired judges and three attorneys-at-law, the President reiterated that all of the nominees have to be acceptable to him and he had not been presented with a range from which to choose one.
The Opposition Leader told the PPP meeting that he has no choice but to continue submitting lists because if he does not do so that would open the door for the President to unilaterally appoint a Chairperson. He warned again that if the President does so, that decision would be challenged in the Court and there would be street protests. “I have already made it clear that if he seeks to appoint a person of his own choice that that would be unconstitutional, illegal; we’d fight it in the courts and on the streets- all of us together…we have to do that because it is about the future of the country,” said Jagdeo.
The Opposition Leader said he also reminded Granger that the interpretation of the constitutional provision on the appointment of a GECOM Chairman had been settled by the PNC even to the extent that then party leader, Senior Counsel Desmond Hoyte had submitted Granger’s name twice for the top elections management authority post.
Those on the second rejected list are 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.
The first rejected list had been made up of Governance and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Lawrence Lachmansingh; Attorney-at-Law and Chartered Accountant, Christopher Ram; Retired Major General, Norman Mc Lean; Business Executive, Ramesh Dookhoo; Indian Rights Activist, Rhyaan Shah and History Professor, James Rose.