The countless debates surrounding the unilateral appointment of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairman have left these shores and are now being discussed in the wider Caribbean Region, particularly in Grenada where retired Justice James Patterson claimed to have served as acting Chief Justice.
But former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall believes that this “autarchic decision” taken by President David Granger to appoint Justice Patterson as the new Chairman puts Guyana in an embarrassing position, where the country has now become a “laughing stock of the Caribbean”.
In fact, Nandlall pointed to the case where current Attorney General Basil William filed an affidavit, which was used to defend Patterson’s alleged untruth on his Curriculum Vitae (CV) that he was the Chief Justice of Grenada.
Williams, in his affidavit, contends that the term “Chief Justice” and “Chief Justice (acting)” are used interchangeably in Guyana. “Are you aware that we are (not) such an uneducated society to make such a moronic faux pas?’ the former Minister questioned.
He said the matter got more hilarious when the AG tried to defend Patterson further by attempting to reinforce that he (Patterson) served as an acting Chief Justice in Grenada.
“Instead of Patterson producing some instrument of appointment, which is the required evidence that a person held or acted in a constitutional office in any civilised country, the AG produces two dingy obscure newspapers clippings, barely readable, of news stories in which Patterson is referred to as the acting Chief Justice of Grenada,” he pointed out.
Nandlall said while Williams may think that that is credible and sufficient evidence that Patterson was acting Chief Justice of Grenada, this nowhere proves anything and this is drawing the attention of several top legal minds from across the Caribbean.
While Patterson has admitted to making a mistake by stating on his CV that he was Chief Justice of Grenada and not acting Chief Justice, the new GECOM Chairman claimed he could not recall the exact dates when he served in that position in the Caribbean State.
Patterson’s service as a Chief Justice of Grenada was listed on his CV for the GECOM position. It has been hotly debated after background checks initially turned up no records he was ever the CJ. “I’ve been appointed acting Chief Justice. They had me acting for a number of years. I don’t remember (when). People refer to me, to this day, as Chief Justice…,” Patterson stated.
“I don’t remember the precise years. It’s got to be anything around 30 years ago. I went there in 1983 and came back in 1991,” Patterson, who was sworn in last month, said. “That much I remember,” he added.
Ties to PNC
Nandlall again raised concerns about Patterson being closely aligned to the major party in the coalition Government, the People’s National Congress (PNC). Recent court documents filed by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to quash Patterson’s appointment also claim that Patterson is a member of the Facebook group, “Rally around the People’s National Congress (PNC)”.
In his affidavit in defence of Patterson being a pallbearer at the late President Desmond Hoyte’s funeral, Williams said that Patterson was at the funeral of a former colleague.
“That maybe so. Indeed, from that perspective, every lawyer, judge and retired judge were colleagues of Mr Hoyte, SC. But of them all, is it not a magical coincidence that Patterson alone chose to attend that private political segment of the ceremony and was chosen to be a pallbearer along with leading PNC leaders and activists?” the former Attorney General questioned.
President Granger had initially sought to distance himself from the 84-year-old GECOM Chair having any association with the PNC, but later said, “I have never seen him at the PNC. Never!” The President had also told the media that he was not aware that Patterson was a member of the PNC.