Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo and President David Granger has made progress on the appointment of a new Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman, which is expected to materialise within days.
This consensus was announced after a high-level meeting on Thursday at the Ministry of the Presidency. Following the meeting the Opposition Leader told the media that both sides committed to having the appointment of a new GECOM chairman completed in the shortest time possible through smaller meetings.
“Both sides agreed, the President and I that this matter is so important that it should be settled in the matter of days. We’re hoping that with good faith and negotiations on both sides, that we can resolve the matter of the new Chairman of GECOM within a matter of days. Those were the President’s words,” Jagdeo expressed.
Article 161 (2) of the Constitution dictates that the Chairman “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, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.”
Jagdeo noted that while he has jurisdiction over the selection of these six names, the President will be allowed to make suggestions. He contended that the list will entail some of the 18 nominees, which were rejected by the President in 2017.
“I will submit names and the President could initiate names. We are not averse to him suggesting names too but the constitutional responsibility to submit the six names is that of the Leader of the Opposition…I will start with a resubmission of the 18 names appropriately adjusted for people who may not want to have their names resubmitted. We’ll use those names as the starting point. Should we not agree on all six names coming from those 18, then we will be supplying additional names,” he stated.
The President had rejected the Opposition Leader’s choices and unilaterally appointed retired Justice James Patterson as the GECOM Chair. This led to a court battle which ended last month when the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that the appointment was done through a flawed process and in breach of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, President Granger, immediately after the meeting with Jagdeo said that the Government is acting in accordance with the decisions from the CCJ. He agreed that the work of GECOM will accelerate under new stewardship.
“Until the GECOM Chairman is appointed, the work of the Commission will not be able to move ahead as quickly as possible. Earlier in the year, we said we were interested in credible elections. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that we operated on the basis of advice by the Chairman of the Commission itself. I met with the Chairman. I also met with the Leader of the Opposition to ensure that the Guyanese are given every assurance that everything is being done to implement the decisions of the Court,” Granger told the media.
As it relates to elections and House-to-House registration, another engagement will be scheduled to address concerns from both Government and Opposition.
According to Jagdeo, most importantly, “erroneous claims” by Government officials about youths not being on the voters’ list should be discussed thoroughly. He maintained that continuous registration has been ongoing and a Claims and Objections period will produce a clean list.
“I said to him, if the concerns are genuine and we want to treat your concerns as expressed as genuine concerns about credible elections, where you indicated erroneously that the young people will not be on the list or the list will be flawed without House-to-House registration. I would like to discuss at length to show you how we can have credible elections with just updating the list through Claims and Objections.”
The Opposition Leader also asserted that as pointed out to the President “we had four elections that were held on this same list. In 2011, his party won the majority in Parliament. In 2015 he won the government on this list. They’ve held two local government elections on this very list and so they had no problems with the list before.”
While the date for elections was not discusses, the Opposition is sticking to the three-month deadline and any time further is seen as a delaying tactic.
“I believe that House-to-House registration on their part is a ploy to delay the elections. They don’t want elections in three months and so they know going to house-to-house registration will mean elections next year,” he positioned.