President’s interpretations now invalid in face of court ruling – Jagdeo
Acting Chief Justice Roxane George has handed down a written ruling in the months-long debacle surrounding the appointment of a chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and has in the process essentially thrown out the
public pronouncements and interpretations held by Head of State, David Granger.
The written ruling was handed down on Tuesday last by the acting Chief Justice and was subsequently welcomed in part by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) when Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo weighed in on the matter.
Justice George has essentially ruled that when rejecting names nominated by the Opposition Leader, the President must provide reasons for each person rejected and all of the names submitted by the Opposition Leader do not have to fall in the category of Judges.
The acting Chief Justice in ruling on whether the list of persons nominated by the
Opposition Leader must include a judge, a former judge or a person qualified to be a judge found the answer to be in the negative.
Addressing media operatives at his Church Street office on Wednesday, Jagdeo made it clear that based on the ruling, the persons nominated by himself “do not have to be in any of these categories: Judges, former Judges or (eligible) to be appointed Judges”.
On the question of whether the President is required under the Constitution to supply reasons as to why the names have been rejected, Jagdeo, in pointing to the ruling, observed that the acting Chief Justice found the answer to be in the positive, “yes, he has to give reasons”.
Speaking to whether the President is obliged to select a person from the six names supplied, unless he has determined positively that the person is unacceptable as a fit and proper person to be appointed, again the Chief Justice
ruled in the negative.
“So even if the President finds individuals who are unacceptable to the list, it does not render the entire list unacceptable,” Jagdeo said.
The Opposition Leader reminded that President Granger’s public utterance was “I have to find all six acceptable before I even consider the list.”
The former President did indicate to media operatives that there was one ruling addressed tangentially by the acting Chief Justice which the PPP could very well appeal in the future since it would have implications for future appointments.
He was speaking to the ruling, which essentially says if the persons on the first list are not found to be acceptable, then the President could go ahead and appoint a person from the category he identified, namely Judges, former Judges or persons eligible to be appointed Judges.
In the acting Chief Justice’s ruling, it was pointed out that her interpretation in this case was simply academic, since there have already been requests on the part of the President for subsequent lists.
Jagdeo has already submitted three lists, the latest still under consideration by the President and according to the Opposition Leader, he is yet to receive any communication with regard to a decision made.
That matter was not raised by the Opposition or the Attorney General, but rather by the Guyana Bar Association which had submitted that the Constitution only contemplated one list to be submitted after which the President must make an appointment.
“It seems as though even APNU’s interpretation and ours coincide that more than one list is contemplated.”
He said the question was “whether we would allow this to stand as a ruling, because if it does then it, unless it’s explored fully, it may influence in the future the choice of a chairperson for GECOM.”
He suggested that should the ruling stand, the President could in future request a single list and if none were found acceptable, he would go right ahead and appoint someone unilaterally.
“I believe personally that that is a bit worrisome; that interpretation for the future,” said Jagdeo.
As such, he indicated that the Party would be discussing further with its lawyers “to see whether we will join others in challenging that interpretation that there should be one list”.
In light of the written ruling handed down by the acting Chief Justice, Jagdeo did indicate, “I am hoping that the President (David Granger) reads this carefully and that his advisors will now guide him accordingly…I hope that he understands now that the interpretation that he had, that all of the persons had to be acceptable to him before he even contemplates choosing someone, that interpretation is now untenable (invalid) in the face of a ruling from the Chief Justice.”
The former President did express some optimism that the ruling by the acting Chief Justice would bring about some sense of conclusion to the months-long debacle stemming from the President’s obstinate positions on his role in the appointment of a GECOM Chairperson. (Gary Eleazar)