AG finally concedes Article 161 (2) qualifies 2 categories of persons – PPP

says Constitution does not accord any preference

…Jagdeo to submit new list of nominees

Following the second bout of discussions on the interpretation of the Constitution with regard to the appointment of a chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Attorney General Basil Williams seems to have conceded that the relevant laws allows for two categories of persons for the position, that is, Judges or those qualified to be Judges and “fit and proper” persons.gecom (2)

This is according to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Opposition, in a statement on Tuesday, after examining the interpretation of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution of Guyana, proffered by the Attorney General during the recently-concluded engagement with Attorneys Anil Nandlall and Priya Manickchand, the Party’s representatives.

“While we do not agree with Williams’ interpretation, we recognise that he has finally conceded that Article 161 (2) of the Constitution qualifies two categories of persons for the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), namely: Judges, former Judges and persons qualified to hold the position of Judges AND, or any other fit and proper persons,” the Party outlined.

The Opposition further posited that the Constitution does not accord any preference whatsoever to one of these categories of persons over the other as Williams contends in his arguments. Neither, it added, the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution confers such bias.

“We are of the firm view that persons from either of these categories are equally qualified for the position of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). Our position is consistent with the historical evolution of this particular Article of the Constitution, as well as, the qualities and qualifications of the persons who have held this position since this Article came into force,” the statement from the Opposition said.

Nevertheless, in the interest of moving the process forward, the PPP disclosed that Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday wrote to President David Granger requesting some additional clarification and informed him that six names would be submitted to him shortly in accordance with Article 161 (2) of the Constitution.

Article 161 (2) states that “… 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…”

In arguing that the ejusdem generis rule applies in Guyana, the Attorney General is positing that the word “other” speaks volumes and must be interpreted to mean that such “other fit and proper persons” must possess the characteristics of the two named preceding categories. But Nandlall previously contended that the Court of Appeal had ruled that the ejusdem generis rule does not apply in Guyana.

The PPP had explained on countless occasions that the Constitution was amended to include the Carter formula which was designed to expand the range of persons suitable to be appointed the GECOM Chairman (to not limit that pool of persons to Judges or those qualified to be Judges).

The Opposition Leader has nominated Attorney and Chartered Accountant Christopher Ram; Executive Member of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Ramesh Dookhoo; former PSC Chairman and Army Chief Norman Mc Lean; writer Rhyaan Shah; Professor James Rose; and human rights and conflict resolution consultant Lawrence Latchmansingh.

But President Granger declared that the entire list was “unacceptable” because none of the candidates met the constitutional requirement of being a judge or being eligible to be a judge.

From all indications, Granger wants all six persons to meet that constitutional requirement of being in possession of such legal qualifications. He had requested the Opposition Leader submit a second list, but Jagdeo had indicated that he would await the outcome of the meeting between the Attorney General and his representatives before he made a decision.

He had also suggested going to the Caribbean Court of Justice to seek an interpretation of the Guyana Constitution given the impasse locally. Based on the outcome of the meetings between the Attorney General and the PPP representatives, the nation will know how the political leaders will move forward regarding the appointment of a new GECOM Chairman.