The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has set May 8 as the date to hear the case brought by the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) Executive Secretary Zulficar Mustapha, challenging the appointment of the current Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, Justice James Patterson.
Initially, Attorney General Basil Williams sought to have the matter heard until after the no-confidence cases; the hearings for which were set for May 10. According to CCJ President Adrian Saunders, however, Williams would only be afforded May 8.
It was pointed out by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, who leads the legal team representing Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, that the more expedient the matter is heard, the better.
“The resolution of this matter, if there is to be elections soon, may cause delay. And therefore it would follow that the earlier this matter is heard and resolved, the better. So that if this court were to approve the appellants and uphold the No-confidence Motion, then the parties could have begun the process of appointing a Chairman,” Mendes said.
At this, Williams took the suggested May 8 date. The CCJ also set April 24 for the presentation written submissions and May 1 for parties involved in the matter to file their replies.
Patterson was appointed to the position of Chairman of GECOM in 2017 after President Granger had rejected three lists comprising 18 names submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for the post of GECOM Chairman.
Last year, Chief Justice Roxane George had ruled that the Constitution of Guyana allows for the President to unilaterally appoint someone to fill the position of Chairman of GECOM.
Justice George’s ruling came after the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had, on October 23, 2017, filed an injunction to have the court rescind the unilateral appointment of Patterson as Chairman of GECOM. The motion was filed in the name of Mustapha just days after the President had made the announcement.
Apart from asking that the appointment of Patterson be rescinded, the PPP had argued that he is unqualified for the post, and had petitioned the court to order the President to choose a person from the 18 names submitted by the Opposition Leader.
But the Chief Justice, in her ruling, has stated that there is nothing before the court to support a finding that the President had acted unlawfully or irrationally in resorting to the proviso to Article 161(2); and there is nothing to rebut the presumption that Justice Patterson is qualified to be appointed to the post of Chairman of GECOM.
According to the Chief Justice, the Opposition did not produce evidence to support the contention that Patterson was unqualified for the position. She added that even if she had agreed with the contention that the appointment was unlawful, it would not have been “permissible for this court to usurp the function of the President by directing him to choose a nominee from the third, or any, list.”