President has discretionary powers to reject 3rd list – AG maintains


One day after Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo described President David Granger’s interpretation of the ruling regarding the lists of nominees for Chairmanship of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) as invalid, Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams has maintained that the President has discretionary powers wherein he can still deem any list as unacceptable.
Minister Williams made these comments on the sidelines of an event at the Pegasus Hotel on Thursday.
“The judgment confirms what we’ve been saying all along — that the discretion is entirely the President’s,” he noted.
Acting Chief Justice Roxanne George’s written ruling said the nominees do not necessarily have to be a judge, former judge or person qualified to be a judge; and further noted that the President must give reasons to justify their unfitness. Her ruling, however, added that if persons on the list are not found to be acceptable, then the President can go ahead and appoint a person from the category he identified: namely judges, former judges or a person eligible to be appointed a judge.
However, the main Opposition, People’s Progressive Party (PPP), has stated that it could appeal the latter decision in future, since that decision could have implications for future appointments.
Speaking on Thursday, the Attorney General did not divulge much into what recent advice he has given the President, especially in light of the ruling. He, however, maintained that the Head of State can still reject the list if he considers one or all the names unacceptable.
“The President could reject the list in its entirety if he considers that it is divergent in terms of totality and the names that are included on the list; so he could do so if he considers that some of the names on the list are unacceptable. He could also reject the entire list, too, again; and he’s not obliged to identify or appoint anybody from the remainder of the list. Thirdly, if one person qualifies, he could accept that person, even though the other five on the list are unacceptable,” the Attorney General observed.
While maintaining that he did not want to show open disapproval or sanction the Acting Chief Justice’s ruling, AG Williams told media operatives that the President having to give reasons detailing why a nominee is not “fit or proper” could have those nominees complaining over the disclosures.
“The caveat that the learned Chief Justice has tagged on [to the ruling] is that he (the President) must give reasons for rejecting in relation to each and every name on the list. Without approbating or reprobating…if the President has to divulge on each individual, why they are unfit and fit and proper, you could understand the scenarios that could occur, because persons on the list might be screaming for murder. It’s unfair if information is divulged in relation to their unfitness,” Williams claimed.
When probed about how he viewed the nominees, Williams declined to give his assessment of the third list, but maintained that the Constitution gives to the President powers in which he can exercise his judgment.
On August 25, the Opposition Leader presented an additional six names to President Granger for him to consider for the post of GECOM Chairman. Jagdeo’s nominees were: Major General retired Joseph (Joe) Singh; Teni Housty; Sanjeev Datadin; Annette Arjune-Martins; Onesi La Fleur and Krishnadatt Persaud.
In the letter to the President accompanying the list, Jagdeo had said that arriving at the six names was not an easy task.