Opposition parliamentarian Anil Nandlall yesterday criticised Attorney-General Basil Williams SC for his failure to schedule a follow-up meeting with him to discuss the criteria for the selection of nominees for the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom).
“The Attorney-General is deliberately stalling a very important process concerning an issue of national importance. The president who initiated this exercise nearly a month ago expressed a desire to have this matter resolved as soon as possible,” Nandlall told the Stabroek News yesterday.
Nandlall was part of an opposition delegation that met with Williams more than a week ago. During that meeting, the opposition made submissions that Williams said he would carefully examine before scheduling a follow-up meeting.
“Obviously recognising the fundamental importance of this issue to the democratic process of the country, the importance of the exercise seems to be lost on the AG. Firstly, he took nearly a week to convene the meeting for which he fixed the date and the time and notwithstanding he came to the meeting absolutely unprepared,” Nandlall argued.
Nandlall added that one would have thought that since it was a meeting that he fixed the date and time for, he would have had the government’s position in writing ready, just like the opposition. “The two positions could have been compared and attempts would have been made to reconcile whatever differences existed between the two sides. Unfortunately, the AG came to the meeting with his two long hands and was unprepared to even say what the government’s position is orally,” he said.
What is worse, Nandlall said, was that the AG was unable to fix a date for another engagement so the process has been left in limbo.
“I wrote him and carbon copied [it] to president and I have not received a response to any one. This is forcing people to draw the inference that the government is not serious and it is confirming suspicions… since the beginning of this process, that the president has an identified person whom he will name for the position,” he said.
Granger indicated several weeks ago that the list of nominees submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, in keeping with his constitutional duty, was unacceptable.
Jagdeo told the media recently that he would await the outcome of the meeting between the two sides before deciding on the “next course of action.” He said he believed his party’s interpretation of the Constitution was shared by many others.
Article 161 (2) of the constitution states, “Subject to the provisions of paragraph (4), the Chairman of the Elections Commission shall be a person who holds or who has held office as a judge of a court having unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters in some part of the Commonwealth or a court having jurisdiction in appeals from any such court or who is qualified to be appointed as any such judge, or any other fit and proper person, to be appointed by the President from a list of six persons, not unacceptable to the President, submitted by the Leader of the Opposition after meaningful consultation with the non-governmental political parties represented in the National Assembly.”
Since then, there have been many arguments supporting both the president’s interpretation and that of Jagdeo, who has argued that the Constitution does not restrict candidates to judges or persons qualified to be appointed to judgeship.
The immediate past chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, was submitted under the category of “or any other fit and proper person.”
Granger himself was nominated for the post under the same proviso by then opposition leader Desmond Hoyte, but has since said that any breaches that may have occurred in the past must not be repeated.