Granger flip-flops on appointment of GECOM Chairman
President David Granger, during a televised interview on Friday to address concerns that he was overstepping his role in the process of selecting a GECOM Chairman by presenting nominees to be considered for the post, said he foresaw gridlock in the process of selecting six acceptable nominees.
He explained that the CCJ had made it clear that it is not altering the Constitution, which states that the Opposition Leader should present a list of six to the President for the selection of the new GECOM Chair, but was moving away from unilateralism in the appointment and towards consensus.
“This means that if the President of Guyana has the role to play in the selection of Chairman, the process will be faster, and both sides will be happier at the end of it because we would have agreed during the stage of the (hammering out) process on the appointment of the Chairman. I can only do that if I’m involved,” he posited.
President Granger went on to say that he cannot simply sit and wait for the final list to be sent to him, because this is what failed in the past and forced him to resort to the proviso in the Constitution which empowers him to appoint a Chairman if the list submitted by the Leader of the Opposition was not in accordance with the Constitution.
“So it’s very important that we pay attention to spirit and the letter of consequential orders (of the CCJ); that is to say, that the President must be given a role, and it means that I have to be involved in the selection of nominees before the (final list of six) nominees comes back to me. It is no longer a one-sided affair. It is no longer unilateral; it is consensual. Both Government and the Opposition have to be involved,” he asserted.
“There is no way the removal of the President’s role in the hammering out process of that list could result in an outcome that is consensual and that is acceptable. It would be spurious if the Opposition insists on exclusively or unilaterally crafting that list. The CCJ ruling makes that impossible,” he said.
However, former Attorney General Mohabir Anil Nandlall stated, “Something is seriously wrong with the President. The CCJ ruled that the President cannot appoint a person of his own choosing once the Leader of the Opposition submits a list to him. When one strips the engagement between the Leader of the Opposition and the President of their esoteric content, it boils down to the President insisting on appointing someone of his own choosing.”
Nandlall further explained that, “The CCJ guidance must be interpreted in a context. That context is Article 161 (2) of the Constitution. That Article mandates for the Leader of the Opposition to submit names to find the “not unacceptability” of the President.
“All that the CCJ did was to explain how this objective can be achieved. The CCJ never intended — and simply could not have intended — to invest the President with a power to submit names to the Leader of the Opposition. Any interpretation of the CCJ judgement which lends to that conclusion is an interpretation that is irrational, capricious, whimsical, and absolutely ignorant of the provisions of Article 161 of the Constitution and the intention placed upon it by the CCJ,” the former Attorney General stated.
At this stage of the informal process, four names were deemed “not unacceptable” to the President by Granger. However, after Granger’s representatives submitted a list of eight names, the list was “shortlisted” to two names, because not all eight names were “not unacceptable” to the President.
However, the Opposition Leader submitted four new names to the President for his consideration, as part of the ongoing informal process.
Notably, at his most recent press conference (18th July 2019), in addressing the current process that is ongoing, Jagdeo said both sides are trying to “hammer out” names as part of a process to reach consensus.
“We have not changed the Constitution…we have made some progress; we have four already, we will work on two or three more. And we will have no questions of rejection at that point in time of the list,” he declared.
The June 18, 2019 ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice made clear that once there is a process of engagement, the President cannot use the proviso to make a unilateral appointment. The ruling said, “[Paragraph 28] Unilateral appointment by the President in keeping with the proviso to Article 161(2) can hardly be an option if the Leader of the Opposition demonstrates a willingness to engage in good faith the process outlined above.”
On the smoothness of the engagement between the Parliamentary Opposition and the APNU+AFC Coalition, the Opposition Leader said, “There are a lot of outside players who are trying to influence the process and influence the President not to comply with the Constitution. That is for him to sort out.”
Nonetheless, he stressed that the Constitution has not been changed relative to his role in submitting to Granger names which will be considered for appointment of a new GECOM Chairperson.