President doesn’t have to give reasons for rejecting Jagdeo’s names or abide by own criteria

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 October 2017, 8:20 by Denis Chabrol

Former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall and current Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.

President David Granger does not have to give reasons for rejecting Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo’s 18 nominees because he had no intention of asking him to submit another list.

The Attorney General’s Chambers also said he Guyanese leader does not have to abide by his own criteria which he had set the Opposition Leader.

Amid calls by several private sector and civil society organisations for the Guyanese leader to give reasons for unilaterally appointing Retired Justice James Patterson, the Attorney General’s Chambers referred to a ruling by Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire that states that the condition on which the President has to give reasons for rejecting the names already submitted.

“The Leader of the Opposition and others for that matter, may not agree with the reasons given, but they must be given so that the parameters for the submission of another list, if required would be set,” states a section of the High Court ruling. The Attorney General Chambers says “His Excellency understands this to mean that only where he agrees to more than one list reasons must be given.”

The Chambers said Article 161 (2)  of Guyana’s Constitution allows the President to exercise his “discretion” to appoint a GECOM Chairman from the “final list” submitted by the Opposition Leader and that he is further empowered by Article 161 (2) “to act in his own deliberate judgement when exercising such discretion.”

The Attorney General’s Chambers  said in the case of Marcel Gaskin vs the Attorney General and others in which the Chief Justice states that the President is not obliged to accept the list or the persons named in it if he believes the list in totality or the names contained are deficient. Further, she states that “If the President considers that one or more persons on the list is not a fit and proper person and therefore unacceptable, then he may decide to reject the entire list as being incomplete or restrictive, or  e may decide to choose one of the persons if they qualify even though every other name on the list is not acceptable. Therefore the whole list need not be rejected.

Against the background of concerns that Justice Patterson is a religious leader in contrast to the President’s criteria that he had given to the Opposition Leader, the Attorney General’s Chambers said it was only after the the names on the final list did not conform to those criteria that the President invoked Article 161(2) which permits the President to act independently to appoint a person of the Judicial category to be the Chairman  of  GECOM, that   is a  person  who is presumptively fit and proper.

“It is in the light of these premises His Excellency appointed the Hon. Justice Patterson as a fit and proper person to the office of GECOM Chairman,” states the Chambers.

For his part on the issue of Patterson being a religious leader, the President said, “I was asked by the Leader of the Opposition to suggest certain criteria which were not necessarily incorporated in the constitution and I proposed certain criteria”.

The President, after rejecting the first list did give the Leader of the Opposition on his request a list of criteria or characteristics that would make listed persons acceptable to him. The criteria are:

a. That person is deemed to have wide electoral knowledge, capable of handling electoral matters because he or she is qualified to exercise unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters,

b.He or she will discharge their functions without fear or favour, that is, they will not allow any person or organisation to bulldoze or influence them to compromise their neutrality,

c.This person will discharge their functions neutrally between the 2 opposing parties as they would have done in Court between 2 opposing litigants,

d.The person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, theological, religious etc.),

e.They should not have any political affiliation or belong to any political party in any form, apparent or hidden, and

f.They should have a general character of honesty, integrity, faithfulness, diligence and fear of God in the discharge of their duty as Chairman.

The PPP, through its Executive Secretary Zulfikar Mustapha, has asked the High Court to quash the appointment of Justice James as GECOM Chairman on several grounds including perceived biases in favour of the People’s National Congress Reform which is led by President Granger, and alleged violation of the constitution in appointing him.