… excuses rejection of 2 lists of nominees
President David Granger has ruled out appointing a foreign national to the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), describing that development as undesirable and impossible.
Speaking during this week’s airing of the Public Interest, (which had been conspicuously absent for some time), Granger also sought to excuse his rejection of two lists of nominees for the GECOM Chair submitted to him by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
“The Constitution requires the Leader of the Opposition to give me a list of six persons who are not unacceptable,” Granger said. “And if he gives me a list with five or four or three, it would be a breach of the Constitution. The danger is that some names — and I’m not going to name any names — may appear on the list (but they) do not conform to the criteria, and it narrows my choice. I have to have six names from which to choose. If five are unqualified, I have no choice. He (Jagdeo) drives me into picking one person, and I need to have a choice of six.”
Asked about a timeline in light of the approaching elections in 2020, Granger was adamant that this issue can be settled “in a week.” He repeated his contention that the two lists were not consistent with the Constitution.
The President’s inflexibility comes even though the second list included two retired judges and three attorneys-at-law.
The Opposition has long argued that the Constitution is on its side, and that the interpretation of the constitutional provision in regard to the appointment of a GECOM Chairman had been settled by the People’s National Congress (PNC), with the then party leader Desmond Hoyte, SC, even submitting Granger’s name twice for the top GECOM position.
“My criterion has not been challenged,” Granger said. “When the second list came, there were names that did not conform to the criteria. I hope the third list conforms to the criteria. I’m not going to choose from one person.”
Almost five months and two lists later, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had suggested to the President that there be an amendment to the Constitution to allow for foreign nationals to be nominated to the post of Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission. Jagdeo has said this was one of the propositions he had made to the President when he met with him recently to discuss a way forward on the GECOM matter and to resolve the impasse.
The former Head of State said, “Why not let us jointly amend that part of the Constitution, where we can submit now (names of foreign nationals for the post of GECOM Chair)? We can search around the world, so my list now can show people from around the world; some of the best people from around the world, so that is one of my suggestions.”
Jagdeo said Granger had not agreed with this suggestion, and had suggested as a counter-proposal that a search committee be established that could possibly comprise six respected individuals; three from each side.
But Jagdeo argued that this would only enable the President to pick one of the nominees instead, which according to him is a direct violation of the Constitution.
Jagdeo, in April last, had submitted to President Granger a second batch of six nominees for the post of Chairman of GECOM. They were retired Justice of Appeal BS Roy; retired Justice William Ramlall; former Magistrate Oneidge Walrond-Allicock; Attorneys Kashir Khan and Nadia Sagar; and businessman Captain Gerald Gouveia.
This second list followed Granger deeming the first list “unacceptable” in early January 2017 because none of the nominees was a judge, retired judge, or eligible to be appointed a judge. Granger’s rejection of the list was in keeping with his interpretation of Guyana’s Constitution.