The Alliance for Change (AFC) stands by President David Granger’s rejection of the six nominees submitted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for the position of Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) and party leader Khemraj Ramjattan says the Head of State doesn’t have to give a reason.
“My understanding is that the six names [are] unacceptable and anything else he says is merely obiter [dicta]. Under the rules of the Constitution, all he has to tell them is that they are unacceptable and if he starts giving reasons, that because their beard is too long or their eyes are cockeyed like mine, that is alright, but it is not relevant. ‘I find them unacceptable’ and that is the end of the matter. He can go on and say he don’t like them because they don’t play cricket like him, is that relevant? …If he states anything further, it is probably just surplusage,” Ramjattan told a party press conference yesterday.
Following Granger’s rejection of his list of six nominees, Jagdeo wrote the president on Tuesday requesting clarity on his interpretation of the criteria for the office holder and proposed an urgent meeting.
Granger on Wednesday said that Jagdeo will be given the clarifications, while sources indicated that there would not be a meeting. He also emphasised that regardless of what obtained in the past, now that the responsibility has been vested in him as President of Guyana, the provisions of the Constitution will be followed.
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.”
While the president has highlighted the legal qualifications stipulated by the constitution, Jagdeo and the opposition PPP have noted that it also makes provision for other “fit and proper” candidates to be appointed.
Granger himself was nominated for the post under the same proviso by then Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte, although he has since said that any breaches that may have occurred in the past must not be repeated.
“My understanding is that at all material times a member of the legal profession or several members of the legal profession were on the list but my acceptance of the nomination …does not necessarily mean that I must accept the six names that were submitted… So the point is, even if the Constitution had been breached, or a nomination been made in breach of the Constitution, 10 or 20 years ago, there is no need to repeat it… That’s not a precedent. I am accepting now as president that the constitutional provisions must be applied,” Granger posited on Wednesday.
Ramjattan was asked about the president’s assertions and if he thinks that it means that the constitution was breached before. He said that he does not interpret Granger to mean that.
“If that is what the president is saying, I didn’t interpret the president saying that, but if that is what he said, I disagree with him,” Ramjattan said.
He said that from all that has transpired between the two sides, he only understands that the president found the six nominees unacceptable and that the PPP/C was trying to twist Granger’s words to suit its own purposes.
“That is wholly constitutional. You go to a second list and if on the second list the president feels that that six other names is not acceptable, he could tell them that it is not acceptable and then he can proceed to name whosoever he wants on his own volition,” Ramjattan, himself an attorney, reasoned.
“There is absolutely no reason required for the president to give ‘Why I don’t want them six names,’ none, and no court of law can compel him to so do and the issue is non-justiciable. So all this nonsense Anil Nandlall is talking that he is going to take it to court and now Jagdeo jump on the bandwagon saying he will take it straight to CCJ, well you have to go High Court and Court of Appeal before you reach CCJ, if they don’t know. So don’t be impressed by that because it is a lot of nonsense. The whole point of it is that it is totally constitutional what the president is doing and that is how I understand what he is saying. They probably want to do a piece of mischief that it has to be a judge. I understand that the president has said that these are unacceptable names,” he added.
He said that it was “very fortuitous” that Jagdeo and the then leader of the opposition found favour in selecting someone from the first list submitted but that does not mean it has to be a precedent.
Meanwhile, as Jagdeo awaits a decision on a request by him for a meeting with the president to discuss the issue, Ramjattan said that he does not support such a meeting. “When the president went to the parliament to give a speech, was Bharrat Jagdeo there? Absolutely not, but he wants to come now and say ‘I want to meet’ and then says ‘if you don’t want meet you don’t want social cohesion.’ …That is what is so destructive,” he said.