GBA to participate in Court’s interpretation of criteria

GECOM Chairmanship

On the heels of the High Court expecting to deliver its interpretation of the constitution with regards to the criteria for the appointment of a Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Guyana Bar Association has been given clearance to participate in the case.
In March, local businessman Marcel Gaskin, who is brother of Business Minister Dominic Gaskin, had moved to the High Court to challenge the constitutionality of President David Granger’s reasoning behind his rejection of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo’s first list of six nominees for the GECOM Chairmanship post. Jagdeo has since submitted a second list, which the Head of State also rejected recently. A third list is pending.
In the court action, Gaskin is seeking a declaratory order from the Court as to whether the list of nominees to be submitted by the Opposition Leader must include a judge, a retired judge, or a person qualified to be a judge.
Since the matter was filed, acting Chief Justice Roxane George has heard submissions from the various parties, which included Gaskin’s lawyer Glenn Hanoman.
On June 6, the matter was called before the acting Chief Justice and was subsequently adjourned in order to facilitate representatives of the Attorney General’s Chambers with sufficient time to examine written submissions made by the other parties, and to prepare to responses.
The next hearing of the matter was scheduled for Friday; however, on Monday last, the Guyana Bar Association filed an application to be included in the proceedings. This was granted on Wednesday during a special hearing organised by the acting CJ, after there were no objections by the parties in the matter.
The Bar Association’s application was brought under the new Civil Procedure Rules which gives the power to a judge to permit or invite anyone to intervene in proceedings as a friend of the Court, without becoming a party, for the purpose of rendering assistance to the Court by way of argument.
“The Bar Council feels that it is its duty, where possible, to offer assistance to the Court in matters of national constitutional significance, such as these proceedings,” the GBA said in a statement on Thursday.
In furtherance of that duty, the 12 members of the Bar Council are actively collaborating in the preparation of written arguments to be submitted by June 21. Thereafter, it is expected that further submissions are to be made by AG’s Chambers.
Justice George had indicated at Wednesday’s hearing that she would be ready to deliver her decision in mid-July.
President Granger has been holding strong that Article 161 (2) of the Constitution prescribes for the Chairman of the Elections Commissioner to be “a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court…or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person…”
Having interpreted “fit and proper” to mean another group of qualified persons, the Opposition Leader in December submitted his first list, nominating: Attorney Christopher Ram; Conflict Resolution Specialist Lawrence Lachmansingh; retired Major General Norman McLean; Business executive Ramesh Dookhoo; Indian Rights Activist Rhyaan Shah, and History Professor James Rose for the post at the helm of GECOM.
However, the Head of State rejected the list, saying that the nominees have to be a judge, retired judge, or possess qualifications to be a judge. He also noted that the GECOM Chairman must not only be a “fit and proper person”, but must not be an activist or member of any political party.
Following weeks of impasse, Jagdeo finally agreed to return to the drawing board and submit a new list of nominees. Consultations were held for several weeks with civil society representatives since there were difficulties in conforming to the criteria outlined by the President.
Nevertheless, Jagdeo had submitted a second list of six nominees for the post of Chairman of GECOM to the Head of State in April. These were: retired Justice of Appeal BS Roy; retired Justice William Ramlall; former Magistrate Oneidge Walrond-Allicock; Attorneys Kashir Khan and Nadia Sagar; and businessman and pilot, Captain Gerald Gouveia.
Again, President Granger rejected this second list, saying that it is “unacceptable” and that all of the nominees should be a judge, retired judge, or qualified to be a judge. The Head of State had noted that he needs to have options on the list, so all of the nominees have to be qualified.
Nevertheless, following a meeting between the two leaders on Monday, it was agreed that a third list of nominees will be submitted for Chairmanship post.
GECOM has been without a Chairman since February 28, 2017.