4 Opposition nominees “not unacceptable” to President
Appointment of GECOM chair
…discussions between Jagdeo, Granger to continue today
Only four of the initial 11 names put forward by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to be hammered out have been found to be “not unacceptable” by President David Granger for the appointment of a new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
This was revealed following a near two-hour meeting between the Head of State and Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday evening at the Ministry of the Presidency. Accompanying the two leaders were PPP’s Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali and Director General at the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon.
A joint statement coming out of the meeting stated, “It was agreed that from the list of five names shortlisted by the working group, four were found not unacceptable to the President”.
This means that those four individuals can make the final list of six nominees and could potentially become the new GECOM chairperson. While neither side opted to divulge information about those names, Guyana Times understands that Conflict Resolution Specialist Lawrence Latchmansingh is among those whom the Head of State found acceptable.
Initially, Jagdeo presented 11 names to be “hammered out” by a working group comprising of representatives from both Government and the Opposition. These included: retired Major General Joe Singh, who served as GECOM Chairman years ago, Environmentalist Annette Arjoon-Martins, retired Justice of Appeal BS Roy, businessman Captain Gerry Gouveia, Attorney-at-Law Kashir Khan, former Magistrate Krishnadatt Persaud, Conflict Resolution Specialist Lawrence Latchmansingh, Retired Major General Norman McLean, businessman Ramesh Dookhoo, Retired Puisne Judge William Ramlall and Pastor Onesi La Fleur.
However, during those meetings last week, the President’s representatives shortlisted only five of those nominees and went ahead to submit a list of eight names suggested by the Head of State for consideration.
This resulted in a breakdown in those talks after the Government’s side could not say definitively whether those names shortlisted, as well as those suggested by President, are not objectionable to him. The process was then referred back to the two political leaders.
After several correspondences over the weekend, Granger and Jagdeo finally met on Tuesday. Coming out of that meeting as well, is the two leaders agreeing that the hammering out process will continue today and during that process, the two names suggested by the President, along with others “as may be necessary”, will be further discussed.
These two persons are Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) Chair and lawyer Kesaundra Alves and retired High Court Judge Justice Claudette La Bennet.
Following the meeting, Jagdeo read the joint statement to media operatives outside the Ministry of the Presidency and was cautious not to stray away from what was agreed upon during the meeting.
The same position was taken by President Granger, who, at a media briefing immediately after the meeting, emphasised that his suggestion of names does not impede on the powers given to the Opposition Leader but is in fact consistent with the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) encouragement to hammer out the list.
“Please bear in mind that the authority of the Leader of the Opposition under the Constitution to submit a list of six names not unacceptable to the President has not been impaired, has not varied. Equally, when the President receives that list, he will make a choice,” Granger posited.
The Head of State, who described the meeting as “fruitful”, is optimistic that today’s engagement will make progress in crafting that final list of six names to be submitted to him to select a chairman of the elections body.
“We feel that this process can be brought to an end very quickly… But the list is not complete even though, numerically, we have six names… it’s a question of selecting persons who satisfy the criteria which has been laid down in the Constitution,” President Granger asserted.
Meanwhile, Harmon assured that the selection of a new GECOM Chair would not be “stretched out” since both leaders have committed to ensuring that the appointment is made in the fastest possible time so as to allow the elections body to proceed with its work, which includes preparing for early elections.
In handing down the Court’s consequential orders last Friday, CCJ President Adrian Saunders highlighted the provisions of Article 106 of the Constitution of Guyana, saying that “their meaning is clear and it is the responsibility of the constitutional actors in Guyana to honour them…the Guyana Elections Commission has that responsibility to conduct elections and GECOM too must abide by the provisions of the Constitution”.
Furthermore, the CCJ President urged that the two political leaders expedite the process to appoint a new GECOM Chair.
“It is now a matter of the greatest public importance that the President and the Leader of the Opposition should, as soon as possible, embark upon and conclude the process of appointing a new GECOM Chairman. This imperative is now of the utmost urgency in light of our decision in the No-Confidence Motion cases that the motion was validly passed, thereby, triggering the need for fresh general elections,” Justice Saunders stated.
Nevertheless, the “hammering out” process is expected to continue between the Government and the Opposition today.