Teixeira writes Harmon on appointment of new Gecom Chairman

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira has written Minister of State Joseph Harmon to inquire about steps that will be taken to appoint a new chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) in light of the impending exit of current office holder Dr Steve Surujbally.

A copy of her letter to Harmon, dated November 15, 2016, was released yesterday by the Office of the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.

 Joseph Harmon
Joseph Harmon
Gail Teixeira
Gail Teixeira

In the letter, Teixeira noted that Surujbally, who has served as Chairman since 2001, has formally indicated to Jagdeo that his resignation would take effect from November 30, 2016.

“In the light of this development and the fast approaching deadline, l am writing you, on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, seeking to be advised on the approach His Excellency President David Granger[’s] Government intends to take in filling the vacancy as provided for in Article 161 of the Guyana Constitution,” she wrote.

She said Jagdeo specifically wishes to be informed whether the President will formally write to him inviting him to submit his six nominees, as required by Article 161 or whether the President will initiate a preliminary formal meeting with him to discuss the appointment of the new Chairman.

According to Article 161, “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.”

It further states that if the Leader of the Opposition fails to submit a list as provided for, “the President shall appoint a person who holds or 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.”

Teixeira was asked to write Harmon about the process as a result of Jagdeo’s concerns that the process to select a replacement for Surujbally had not been initiated.

“Given the necessity of having a fully comprised commission at all points in time, given that the work of the commission is critical in the preparation for the next elections, I have not received any indication from the President when he intends to trigger that provision. Now this is very worrying for us given the slothfulness in this government and its incompetence and the sensitivity surrounding Gecom,” he told a news conference last Wednesday.

Jagdeo also reported that the PPP/C has already started considering nominees for the post.

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