The second round of ongoing consultations between President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo got underway on Wednesday afternoon, during which the appointment of the new Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the judicial appointments were discussed.
The meeting was held at State House during which Jagdeo was accompanied by parliamentarian and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall; while the President’s team included Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Attorney General Basil Williams.
According to a statement from the Office of the Opposition Leader on Wednesday evening, during the meeting, the President admitted that a collaborative exercise between himself and the Opposition Leader would assist in arriving at a consensual candidate, which was the intention of the framers of Article 161 (2) of the Constitution. To this end, the Head of State promised to present Jagdeo with the necessary clarifications requested within 10 days.
The Opposition Leader had, on numerous occasions, sought clarifications from President Granger with regards to the qualities of the persons to be nominated for the position. Nevertheless, upon receipt of these clarifications, the statement said, the Leader of the Opposition shall submit to the President a new list of six more names for the appointment of the GECOM chairmanship in accordance with Article 161 (2) of the Constitution, as soon as is reasonably possible.
Meanwhile, in a separate public missive from the Ministry of the Presidency on Wednesday evening as well, Minister Harmon noted that the Attorney General sought to give a clear explanation as to what, according to the Constitution, was “fit and proper”.
“His Excellency did elaborate a little more on that and he identified the three ‘Is’ which is to say that the person must be a person of integrity, the person must be a person who is independent and the person must be someone who is impartial,” Harmon said. He added that while a date for the next engagement with the Opposition Leader has not been fixed, there is not going to be much delay in concluding this particular issue.
On the other hand, the two leaders also discussed pending issues relating to judicial appointments including the recommendations of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for the appointment of two Judges to both the High Court and Appeal Court – an issue which Jagdeo had raised during the first consultation meeting last week.
In February 2016, the JSC had recommended that High Court Judges, Justice Rishi Persaud and Justice Dawn Gregory, be elevated to the Court of Appeal and that Attorneys Sandil Kissoon and Damone Younge, be appointed as Puisne Judges.
According to Harmon in the MotP release, the Head of State indicated to the Leader of the Opposition during the meeting that he sent a letter to the acting Chancellor and the Chairman of the JSC asking them to provide some additional information, that is, information relating to performance of the two Judges and certain particulars of the two lawyers. The Minister of State noted that based upon this information, the President will exercise his judgement.
However, during the meeting, the Opposition Leader referred to the constitutional mandate of the JSC to conduct the requisite inquires and to determine the suitability of candidates who eventually would become the subject of recommendations to the President for appointment.
Jagdeo outlined that once those recommendations are made, the President’s power is very limited under the Constitution, obliging him to make the appointments in spite of reservations which he may have regarding the candidates who have been recommended.
Furthermore, the former President pointed out that any request for a performance related report ought not to be confined to the two Judges, who have been recommended for elevation, but must apply to all Judges so that they can be a basis for comparison. Additionally, he noted that since this initiative would be a comparatively new one, it should be applied in the future whenever judges are recommended for promotion.
Wednesday’s meeting was a follow-up to initial consultation held on March 1 between the two leaders. While last week’s meeting was premised on the appointment of Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards as acting Chancellor of the Judiciary and Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire as acting Chief Justice, the Opposition Leader took the opportunity to raise several issues within and beyond the Judiciary.