Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday said that he is still awaiting feedback from some potential nominees that he has shortlisted for the post of Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), while one has already declined.
“Already one person has said no… I suspect what within a week or so I would have completed the consultations and the new list would be submitted to the president,” Jagdeo told a news conference yesterday.
He had shortlisted eight persons after consulting with various civil society organizations.
He noted that he had read in the state-owned Guyana Chronicle of some of the purported candidates that he would have shortlisted but he would not say if the information was accurate.
Asked what would happen if the other persons that have been shortlisted decided to decline his nomination, he said that he would go back to the wider pool of candidates and continue the process.
Jagdeo would not commit to a specific deadline for submission to President David Granger but assured that “very soon” after he was done with consultations he would compile the list and send it off.
Two weeks ago, Jagdeo had told Stabroek News that while a list of six names is required, he had decided to add two more in the event that one of those nominated declined. “We shortlist eight because a couple of them may not take up the position so just in case they say no, we will still have the six,” he told this newspaper, while explaining that those shortlisted were “ranked.”
The process to select 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, has been drawn out due to contention over the criteria for the nominees.
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.
Although committed to resubmitting a new list, Jagdeo has voiced concern that Granger’s criteria for candidates may not be legal or constitutional.
According to a submission on the “Qualities of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission” that was sent by Granger to Jagdeo, and which was released by the Office of the Opposition Leader, the candidate should be a person who is qualified to be a High Court Judge and should have been an attorney for a minimum of seven years. It said that in the absence of candidates who do not meet these qualifications, “any other fit and proper person” should be appointed. In this regard, the statement specifies that such persons should have the following characteristics:
“a) that person is deemed to have wide electoral knowledge, capable of handling electoral matters because he or she is qualified to exercise unlimited jurisdiction in civil matters
b) That person will discharge his or her functions without fear or favour, that is he or she will not allow any person or organization to influence him or her to compromise his or her neutrality;
c) That person will discharge his or her functions neutrally, between the two opposing parties as he or she would have done in Court between two opposing litigants
d) That person will not be an activist in any form (gender, racial, religious etc);
e) That person should not have any political affiliation or should not belong to any political party in any form, apparent or hidden; and
f) That person should have a general character of honesty, integrity, faithfulness and diligence in the discharge of his or her duty as Chairman.”
The first list submitted by Jagdeo did not include a judge; rather, it comprised candidates that he felt could qualify under the “fit and proper” proviso.
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.”