GECOM Chair impasse
… despite CJ’s ruling
Despite the recent court ruling on President David Granger’s interpretation of the Constitution regarding the appointment of a Chairman for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Opposition says this will not affect the process of
selecting the third list of nominees.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said he will have further internal discussions on the matter and will seek some engagement with the Executive on the outstanding issues. Jagdeo said, “I am still discussing with people… I am still going through the process of meeting people.”
The Opposition Leader told a press conference on Wednesday, however, that he is still awaiting the written judgment from acting Chief Justice Roxane George, and expressed caution while providing comments on the recent ruling, promising that more would be said after such time.
Last week, Jagdeo revealed that he had 10 persons shortlisted, but hinted that there might be some difficulty finalising that list. According to him, one of the 10 persons shortlisted has already indicated a reluctance to be nominated, because of fear of public humiliation.
Nevertheless, the Opposition Leader said it seems as though based on public perception that a ruling was made on a matter that was not a subject in the court matter.
He was making reference to the issue of whether President David Granger can unilaterally select someone of his choice and who was not submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, to be appointed.
“So far, it seems to be a matter that has been ruled on or mentioned in the judgement. We don’t know if it will be an aside or it would be part of the ruling,” he stated. If that is so, Jagdeo affirmed that the Opposition will have to support Mr (Marcel) Gaskin in challenging the matter.
“And the reason is that you would recall that there were several submissions but this issue was not a matter that was in Mr Gaskin’s case to the court and so neither side. The plaintiff nor the defendant made submissions on these matters because that question was not put to the court,” he pointed out.
Further, Jagdeo said not only did Gaskin not make a submission on that matter, but the Guyana Bar Association, the Attorney General (Basil Williams) nor his lawyers made submissions on that specific issues. “So, unless the matter was raised in the hearing and both sides were called in court to make arguments or they were asked to do so in writing, then we believe that it would be an extremely strange sort of ruling,” Jagdeo observed.
The acting Chief Justice in her ruling said the President is not required to give reasons for rejecting nominees by the Opposition Leader but in the spirit of good governance and democracy he should do so. However, Granger told the media that he will not be providing any reasons.
Jagdeo asserted that the court ruling was diametrically opposite to what the President said that he will only look at the list if he finds all the names acceptable. “And the court said even if there is one name acceptable he is obligated to examine that name and you can’t reject the list until it’s a perfect list.”
He argued also that the court stated that the list could also have six persons in the fit and proper category too. Jagdeo said, “So, in light of this and the President’s public statement sometime back that he found at least one of the persons acceptable, someone should ask him in light of the court ruling on this matter, then he was obligated to go ahead and appoint that person according to the court judgement.”
In her determination, the acting Chief Justice also found that there was no valid argument to support the idea that the Chairman should be a Judge, a former Judge or a person eligible to be a Judge, and noted that persons from each category were equally eligible for the post.
Included in Justice George’s ruling on Monday was that the persons proposed for the post of GECOM Chairman must have Judge-like qualities and possess integrity, honesty, and impartiality. She also said that the word “any” in the other category, “any other fit and proper person” widens the category and “does not restrict the qualification or profession” from which the nominee should be drawn, and noted that there was no mandatory category and all the categories had equal weight.