Having received some 14 names from consulted stakeholders, Opposition Leader Bharat Jagdeo will this week begin shortlisting to submit to President David Granger another list for his selection of Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) Chairman.
“This week we will be examining the list… We are submitting a second list,” Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira told a press conference yesterday.
She explained that names had been received from some of the groups the party had held consultations with, and that while the list is about “12 to 14 names” some are repeats.
The PPP executive member made it clear that her party holds firm to its view and is adamant that the President’s interpretation of the Constitution is wrong as it pertains to selecting a Gecom Chairman. However, knowing that the importance of the having the position filled, it was undertaking to submit another list.
Questioned on what would be the Leader of the Opposition’s next move if the second list was also deemed unacceptable by the President, she said that if that time came, it would be dealt with; she did not want to speculate.
She informed that the party is moving in a systematic order as it tries to compile another list of six names, in keeping with the President’s criteria.
“A number of the religious people who came to meet with us last week Tuesday, said even Jesus couldn’t fulfil those criteria,” Teixeira said. PPP MP Juan Edghill, who was also at the press conference, interjected, “It wasn’t Bishop Edghill who said that… because if I had said it, it would have made the news.”
The selection of a Chairman of Gecom, to replace Dr Steve Surujbally, who had formally indicated to President Granger his intention to resign with effect from November 30, 2016, is at an impasse over the criteria for the post. Granger had rejected Jagdeo’s first list of six names as it didn’t contain any candidate who was a judge, a former judge or eligible to be appointed a judge. Jagdeo had maintained that the list was valid but undertook to submit a second list.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran has underscored the need for the swift filling of the top Gecom vacancy, saying that the country’s leaders have an obligation to rise above their differences and agree on a Chairman. He said both sides were needed in the decision making as a unilateral appointment can seriously jeopardise democratic gains.
Ramkarran, who once served as an elections commissioner, said that while the formula for selecting a Chair is constitutionally enshrined and must be formally adhered to, it does not preclude the leaders from informally suggesting names and one of those names getting onto the list.
“If the situation arises where the President seeks to appoint a judge, a former judge or a person qualified to be a judge, Guyana’s entire future as a democratic polity, albeit with profound challenges, will be in jeopardy. The unwritten rule that fundamental changes to electoral practices since 1992 should not be undertaken without broad consensus, notwithstanding the letter of the law, must not be allowed to fall apart.
“Our leaders have an obligation to rise above the differences and agree on a Chair of the Elec-tions Commission,” Ramkarran declared.