Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday questioned the reason why President David Granger wants to meet with him again next week to discuss the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission, and said that it is time the Guyanese leader abides by a recent High Court ruling on the matter.
“If our president cannot find from 18 persons who are all professionals…most of them are more technically qualified than the president himself and most of his ministers; he cannot find a single person who is fit and proper then something is wrong not with those people or the process, then something is wrong with him. Maybe, he is not fit and proper to make the selection,” Jagdeo told a news conference.
Jagdeo said the High Court ruling has rendered the option of the President unilaterally appointing someone of his own choice because 18 names – six names in three lists- have been submitted so far to Granger for him to submit one who is “not unacceptable” to head the elections management agency’s commission.
The former Guyanese leader noted that his nominees are of good standing and have demonstrated independence and impartiality.
President Granger on Wednesday said, based on the written decision by Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, he is still vested with the constitutional authority to appoint someone who is fit and proper.
Reacting to Granger’s signal that he would like to meet with Jagdeo next week, the Opposition Leader called on the Guyanese leader to apply the High Court ruling. “Now that the ruling has has dealt with all of those issues that I spoke about, that the President has an obligation to respect and apply the ruling to the list of candidates before him,” said Jagdeo, the People’s Progressive Party’s General Secretary.
After President Granger had continued to insist that all of the nominees must be acceptable to him and that he preferred a judge, retired judge or someone eligible to be a judge to be a GECOM Chairman, civil engineer Marcel Gasking sought a legal interpretation from the High Court.
Noting that in the past the President has formally informed him that the two lists have been rejected, Jagdeo said he would attend the meeting with Granger. He urged that we “keep our fingers crossed and our hopes high” that the President would provide good news.
Calling the 10-month long process so far in naming a GECOM Chairman a “charade”, Jagdeo questioned “what does he want to meet with me again”. He said maybe the President has no authority to make the decision and suggested that such a role has been set aside for the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the largest party in A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) which in 2015 coalesced with the Alliance For Change (AFC) to form the government .
The latest nominees include former GECOM Chairman, Retired Major General Joseph Singh; Attorneys-at-Law Teni Housty, former magistrate Krishnadatt Persaud, aviator and environmentalist Annette Arjoon-Martins and Pastor Onesi La Fleur.
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.
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 President has said that he has rejected the second list because he was not presented with a range of persons from which to choose one.
The Chief Justice has also ruled that the Opposition Leader’s nominees do not have to include judge, former judge or a person qualified to be a judge, the President is not obliged to select a person from the six names on the list unless he has determined that the persons are unacceptable as fit and proper for the appointment and that he cannot deem the entire list unacceptable if one or more nominees is not fit and proper.
Justice George also ruled that the President is required to state reasons for deeming each of the six names on the list unacceptable. Previously, the President, in publicly responding to the Chief Justice’s ruling, had asked where in the Constitution states that he should give reasons for rejecting the nominees.